Northborough votes to purchase 432 Whitney St.

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Northborough votes to purchase 432 Whitney St.
This map shows 432 Whitney St. outlined in pink. The town exercised its right of first refusal for to purchase the property. (Photo/Town of Northborough)

NORTHBOROUGH – Night two of Northborough’s Town Meeting ended with residents voting to purchase a parcel at 432 Whitney St.

The town intends to purchase the property for open space and recreation purposes and to develop a small affordable housing project that would consist of four to eight units.

Earlier this year, the Select Board expressed an interest in having the town exercise its right of first refusal to purchase the property. It is owned by Santo Anza, who was convicted in 2013 on charges that he was operating an illegal solid waste dump at nearby 429 Whitney St.

The site is 23.77 acres of undeveloped land and was proposed to be sold to Howland Development Corporation for $1.7 million. According to the statement of proposed use, the developer would use it for a 40,000- to 60,000-square-foot building for commercial/ industrial/warehouse/distribution purposes that could be served by a connection to the adjacent freight rail line.

The article specifically requested using $1.7 million in Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds – specifically from the Community Preservation Unreserved Fund, Conservation Fund and from the Community Preservation Fund revenues – to purchase the land.

RELATED CONTENT: Article requests $1.7M in CPA funds to purchase Whitney St. parcel

According to Community Preservation Committee Chair John Campbell, the Department of Conservation and Recreation would be willing to give the town $200,000 toward the conservation of the property and hold the conservation restriction on the parcel.

Campbell said that soil testing had been completed, and it showed no signs of contamination.

During the meeting, residents voiced their support to purchase the property. One resident said he works in a town with an active railroad. He argued that there will be additional trucks and derailments, and property values will go down if the developer’s project moved forward. Another argued that the town had enough warehouses.

Greg Roody asked the residents to consider what a manufacturing or a warehousing plant that would require a rail line means.

“They don’t mean light manufacturing. They don’t mean Amazon storage. This is heavy manufacturing. This is hazardous waste storage,” he said.

Roody said diesel engines would be idling 24 hours a day, heavy machines would roll in and out and rail and trucks would be in and out all day long.

“Let’s go with the safe situation. … We know it will be bucolic. It will cost us a little money, but we have the money in the accounts. It will be controlled,” he said.

Others voiced their concerns, including about several about losing potential tax revenue and not wanting to pay the owner. Resident Jeanne Cahill said a small portion of the soil was sampled, expressing concern about additional contamination and invasive plants on the property.

Aaron Hutchins said the conversation was reminiscent of the White Cliffs debate.

“I have great hope that if this passes that the open space does not become a second White Cliffs property for us in terms of problems that we need to resolve and solutions that we don’t have answers for yet,” he said.

Ultimately, residents approved the purchase 260- 67. Town Meeting will continue to a third night.

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