Town Meeting article seeks to acquire 34-acre parcel

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Town Meeting article seeks to acquire 34-acre parcel
This map shows the location of the Ellis-Walker parcel at 0 Bowman St. (Photo/Courtesy Town of Westborough)

WESTBOROUGH – An article on this spring’s Annual Town Meeting warrant is requesting to expand the town’s open space, thanks to the generosity of a local family.

Members of the Ellis-Walker family were on hand for an information session about their parcel at 0 Bowman St. on Tuesday, Feb. 27, at the fire station’s training room.

The session was sponsored by the town’s Conservation Department.

The 34-acre parcel is located near the Massachusetts Turnpike and the Upton town line. It is adjacent to several other town-owned properties, including Upton Road, Bowman and Bowman West conservation areas.

Conservation Agent Jennifer Miller said there are several trails already established in the area. 

“We hope to have passive recreation [on the parcel],” she said.

Miller added there could be a potential for community gardens.

The parcel once served as pasture land. It is now a mix of open meadows, forested uplands and wetlands.

The acquisition would help the town conserve open space, provide wildlife habitat, protect the town’s drinking water supply and offer passive recreation such as hiking.

According to Miller, the parcel is of historic significance because it was once occupied by Native Americans.

“It’s really a tremendous opportunity for the town,” said Planning Board Chair Mark Silverberg.

About Article 20

The Open Space Committee and Conservation Department are requesting an appropriation of $615,000, plus $25,000 for the initial stewardship of the property.

Miller said initial stewardship would include signage, blazing the trails, kiosks and bog bridges.

The funds would mainly come from free cash at $507,500 and $107,500 from the Walkup Robinson Fund, which also committed the funds for the initial stewardship. According to Miller, this would be a temporary borrow of free cash.

The town has applied to the Land and Water Conservation Fund for a reimbursement grant of up to half of the appropriation, or $307,500.

Sudbury Valley Trustees has committed $200,000 toward the acquisition, in exchange for a conservation restriction.

“Sudbury Valley Trustees is looking to partner with us to help us conserve this property,” said Miller.

She added that the article has been worded so that the funds would not be expended until the town receives a commitment for the $307,500 grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the $200,000 from Sudbury Valley Trustees Inc. 

Once received, the article’s sponsors would reimburse the town $507,500 of the purchase price.

“There would be a net zero impact to the taxpayers,” said Miller.

Miller added that they should be notified about the grant sometime this summer.

If the article is approved, the Select Board would be authorized to acquire the property.

It would also authorize the Select Board, Conservation Commission and/or other designee to seek out federal and state grants; to enter into any and all agreements; and to convey a perpetual conservation restriction on the parcel to Sudbury Valley Trustees Inc., or any other qualified organization.

This article will require a two-thirds majority vote.

Should the article be turned down, Silverberg said a portion of the parcel could be developed into a cul-de-sac, but it would be “very expensive.”

“That would very definitely be my fear,” he said. “I certainly don’t want to see this land developed, and I know this family has expressed the same desire.”

Town Meeting will convene on Saturday, March 23, at 9 a.m. in the high school auditorium.

For information about the parcel at 0 Bowman St., and the TM article, email [email protected].

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