Open space purchase heading to Westborough Town Meeting

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Open space purchase heading to Westborough Town Meeting
Drone photography shows a stretch of land near the water tower that the town is interested in purchasing. (Photo/Tami White)

WESTBOROUGH – A chance for the town to purchase a 15.42-acre parcel at 0 Ruggles Street will appear on the fall Town Meeting warrant.

During its Sept. 13 meeting, the Select Board voted to execute a purchase-and-sales agreement for the site, which is near Fales Elementary School.

The site is divided into three parcels.

Parcel “A” is the smallest, and located near Breen Road. Parcel “B” is the largest, and Parcel “C” is adjacent to the town’s water tower.

The Select Board would like to have control of parcels A and C. Parcel A could be used as trailhead parking while Parcel C may be needed for work on the water tower or other utilities.

Select Board Chair Ian Johnson said the town has talked with the Westborough Community Land Trust and Sudbury Valley Trustees about this property.

“They’re very interested in this,” he said.

According to Johnson, the town received a letter from the Massachusetts Historical Commission stating that the property has a “significant historical interest” related to Jack Straw, who was a Native American from the 1600s who was friends with Sir Walter Raleigh and the first Christian Native American to be granted land in the colonies.

“0 Ruggles is a project that’s currently being led by town committees [Planning Board, Conservation Commission]. It’s exciting for WCLT, as we will be planning/signing/ improving the trails in the adjacent Despres property, and would love to see this land conserved,” said President of the Westborough Community Land Trust Chris Sassetti.

What is before Town Meeting

Johnson said the deal is expected to be closed by the end of 2022.

Town Manager Kristi Williams added the town will ask the WalkUp Robinson Trust Fund Committee to allocate from the WalkUp Robinson Trust “the amount equal to half the cost to the town.”

Specifically, the article before Town Meeting would authorize the Select Board to acquire the property and raise and appropriate, transfer from available funds, and/or borrow $334,000 to fund the acquisition of the property.

However, the available funds will not include a state land grant of $92,950.

During its Oct. 3 meeting, the Select Board discussed the grant with Conservation Director Sheri Widdiss.

If the town accepted the grant, the parcels would go under the supervision of the Conservation Commission.

According to Widdiss, under the state’s Article 97, the parcels would remain as open space, with passive recreation permitted. However, the town would have limited options as to building roads or providing handicapped access to trails.

Department of Public Works Director Chris Payant wanted the town to set aside Parcel “C.”

“I recommend to partition part [of the parcel] for town use,” he said.

While there are no current plans, Payant said the partition “allows us that flexibility.”

Board members said they were reluctant to decline the grant, but with a possibility of adding a well, or installing a trailhead, having more control over the parcels outweighed accepting the grant.

“It pains me to walk away from the grant, but I support the division,” said Widdiss.

“I hate not using the grant, but this makes the most sense,” said Johnson.

The board voted to decline the grant and move forward with dividing the parcels.

Town Meeting will convene on Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. at Westborough High School.

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