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Upton Selectmen Shelve Purchasing Sweetwilliam Farm

During a May 25 Board of Selectmen's meeting, members of the Open Space Committee came before the Board to discuss placing an article on the June 15 Special Town Meeting warrant to purchase the Sweetwilliam Farm located on North St. for $1.5 million.

According to Open Space Committee member Michael Penko, the farm would be purchased through Community Preservation Act funding, along with a $500,000 LAND grant, and private donations.

The Sweetwilliam Farm is composed of more than 90 acres of pasture, agriculture fields, a working community supported agriculture farm, and woodlands.

Penko stated the farm has considerable value including the view off of North St. and its history. "It's one of the most intact farms Upton has," added Penko.

The owner of the farm would like to keep the farm preserved and is asking the town to purchase the property. However, if that does not occur, it will likely be sold to developers.

The Community Preservation Act account currently has $2 million and the Open Space Committee would be requesting approximately $700,000 to $800,000 of that. Penko added he was fairly certain the town would be awarded the $500,000 LAND grant from the state and that the other remaining monies would need to be raised through donations. However, the purchase of the farm is contingent on receiving the grant.

According to Community Preservation Committee Chair Rena Richard, the CPC had not yet agreed to give the Open Space Committee the monies to purchase the farm but they would be meeting the following week to discuss it. Richard admitted that typically the CPC agrees to fund a project first before coming before the Board. However, she said the timing of everything was an issue.

The Board then voiced their concerns regarding the project.

Selectmen Robert Fleming stated that if the private donations of $200,000 do not come in, then the town will be forced to fund the remaining amount. He added that Upton already has more than 2,000 acres of land in the State Forest and another 600 acres throughout town. Fleming went on to say that the Town Hall is not handicapped accessible and is in need of other restorations and that using CPA funding to purchase more land is not a wise economic decision right now.

Selectmen Ken Picard stated he did not agree with the process by which the Open Space Committee came before the Board before determining if CPA funding was approved and felt it would be best to come before the Board again in fall.

Penko explained the owner of the farm does not have that much time and by fall the land will likely be sold to developers.

Selectmen Chair Mike Goodwin agreed with Fleming and Picard adding, "I'm not here for the owner, I'm here for the town."

In other news that evening, resident Marsha Paul talked to the Board on behalf of concerned parents about the possibility of the town's override failure.

Paul wanted to reiterate that even though Mendon's override vote failed, should Upton's pass, the monies discussed would be earmarked for the schools.

Paul added she was happy that the Selectmen were encouraging residents to vote on June 8.

"We are not encouraging residents to vote for or against the override. We just want them to get out and vote," said Picard.




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