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Sudbury

Split develops over purchase of meadow lot

Neighbors ask town to buy land, block house project

Susan Doherty was drawn to Sudbury three years ago for its top-notch schools, historic character, and natural beauty.

Now she is fighting to help preserve a meadow in the Sudbury Centre Historic District that is set to be sold to a developer for a large single-family home. Doherty, who lives near the Concord Road lot, is among a group of residents urging the Board of Selectmen to buy the land, undeveloped since the town’s incorporation 375 years ago.

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“So much building has gone on in Sudbury, it’s the last frontier in our town center,’’ said Doherty. “Things disappear on a daily basis. It wasn’t what we were expecting when we moved to this town.’’

The 2.2 acres at 233 Concord Road, Lot B, is conservation land, so the town has the first option to purchase it. The owners, Stephen and Sharon Booma, have notified the town of plans to sell the land to Michael Carney for $325,000. He plans to build a home on the lot and resell it.

“I love Sudbury, grew up in it, and only want to do what’s good for Sudbury,’’ Carney said.

The Board of Selectmen recently discussed the property, and is divided over whether it is worth using limited funds to preserve the small lot. Selectmen have until Dec. 19 to make a decision on the town’s option. Several boards have weighed in on the issue, including the Conservation Commission, Historic Districts Commission, and Planning Board, all of which support the town purchase.

“This is a one-time-only opportunity at a reasonable cost that will yield priceless long-term benefits for future Sudbury citizens,’’ the Conservation Committee wrote to the selectmen.

But Selectman Larry O’Brien said he does not support the idea because the land does not connect to other conservation parcels, and there is no sidewalk or parking near it.

“I feel it’s a small parcel, which does not offer any real community benefit,’’ he said. “I really see it as a parcel of land that would be of great benefit to a small group of people that abut or live near it, but for a vast majority of Sudbury I don’t see it offering much benefit.’’

Selectman Robert Haarde would not say how he plans to vote but thinks it warrants serious consideration, given its location in the historic district.

He said the latest Tom Hanks movie, “Captain Phillips,’’ features a background scene in Sudbury because of its historic New England charm.

“Any change to our historic town center needs to be considered carefully,’’ Haarde said.

Selectman John Drobinski, the board’s chairman, said the panel voted, 3 to 2, to put a placeholder article on next spring’s Town Meeting warrant seeking Community Preservation Act funds for the purchase.

The placeholder was necessary in order to meet Friday’s deadline to apply for the funds.

Drobinski, who voted with Haarde and Charles Woodard to approve the placeholder article, said it is a difficult decision because funds are tight. He said he would like to see the town partner with some neighbors to buy the land. O’Brien and Les Simon opposed the placeholder article.

“Really, this is benefitting a small neighborhood,’’ Drobinski said. “No one is saying it’s not valuable, but can we really do it this year with our limited budget?’’

Fiona Hamersley, who lives across the street from the meadow, said the neighbors have agreed to contribute money to maintain the land once it is purchased. But she thinks the town should buy the parcel, especially given the support from other boards.

“It’s open land and it’s basically what we moved to Sudbury for,’’ Hamersley said. “Once this land is gone, it’s gone, and that’s the end of it. I think we can do better.’’

O’Brien said even though the land is in the historic district, it is not a significant part of the landscape.

“It’s a visible location if you know where it is and if you stop and look at it,’’ he said. “If you’re driving down the road at 30 miles per hour, you hardly notice it’s there.’’

He said he is confident that the Historic Districts Commission would work with the developer to make sure the new home fits in.

“No, it won’t be a 100-year-old home, but the design will have to meet the regulations,’’ he said. “That’s why we have a Historic Districts Commission to look after those things.’’

Carney, the developer, has worked on other projects in town, and said he would work closely with planning officials and the Historic Districts Commission.

The commission, however, supports the purchase because members think it would be difficult to build an appropriate home there. There is a conservation restriction on the rear of the parcel, which means the home would have to be built close to the road.

“With its position among the most beautiful and historic homes in the Town Center Historic District, this piece of land merits the most careful consideration,’’ the commission wrote in a letter to selectmen. “If the land is sold to a developer, and new construction is planned, it would be difficult to design a building that is in scale with and appropriate to this historic neighborhood.’’

Jennifer Fenn Lefferts can be reached at jflefferts@ yahoo.com.
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