Northborough opts not to buy land on Ball Street

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By Dakota Antelman, Managing Editor

Northborough opts not to buy land on Ball Street
Northborough elected officials recently agreed to waive the town’s right of first refusal on a piece of land on Ball Street where a single family home is now set to be built. (Photo/Dakota Antelman)

NORTHBOROUGH – The Town of Northborough passed on an opportunity on June 28 to buy a small plot of land that is now slated for development. 

The land is located on Ball Street and is in the process of being purchased for the purpose of building a single family home. 

“While it’s a beautiful piece of property, it doesn’t abut any town-owned land,” Town Planner Kathy Joubert explained in a presentation to the Board of Selectmen. “So, therefore, it would be this really isolated piece of land that wouldn’t serve any purpose to the town for open space protection.”

As the property owner in this case has received an offer from a private buyer, the matter did come before the town due to a rarely used provision in state tax law. 

Joubert explained that a cluster of exemptions and clauses in Chapter 60, Chapter 61a and Chapter 61b of broader state law allow individuals to earn a municipal tax break if they meet “certain requirements” for agricultural production and forestry coverage. 

This property met those requirements and had been receiving a tax break. 

With that, Joubert explained, landowners often feel less pressure to sell unused space that they might otherwise quickly offload. 

The protection is only temporary, though, she reiterated. Eventually, she explained “The owner reaches a point where they do want to sell the property.”

That’s what happened here. 

As a sale moves forward, the town got a “right of first refusal” to buy it instead. That decision, specifically, fell to a coalition of municipal committees and commissions who, in this case, all passed on such a purchase. 

That list included the Planning Board, the Open Space Committee, the Conservation Commission and the Recreation Commission. Each reviewing the land on Ball Street, those groups of officials weighed in before awaiting a final decision from the Board of Selectmen.

“It’s not something that regularly happens with the boards,” Joubert said of this unique process.

Selectmen unanimously agreed to decline their right of first refusal.

This Ball Street land is owned by Northborough resident Cynthia Fawcett. It stretches over 4.25 acres and is located near the Boylston Town Line as well as the nearby Tougas Family Farm.

Discussing the land, Joubert contrasted the situation with one the Selectmen also reviewed in their June 28 meeting. 

Back in 2019, the town bought property on Howard Street with the expressed purpose of protecting it from development as a complex of private homes. Last month, Selectmen then approved a conservation restriction to formally knit that plot into its network of trails and assets for passive recreation. 

On Howard Street, the land in question spanned over 19 acres, nearly five times the size of this land on Ball Street. 

The Howard Street land also bordered hundreds of acres of contiguous owned open space in the Mount Pisgah area. The decision to buy, in that situation, was made with the understanding that Northborough was expanding the footprint of that conservation effort. 

The Ball Street property is disconnected from any other state or municipal land.