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Developer offers access, but some want town to buy land.

Byline: Lynne Klaft

LUNENBURG - An Andover developer has presented selectmen with a proposal of free access to town conservation land in the northwest corner of Lunenburg.

Kevin O'Brien of O'Brien Homes is buying the 147-acre Aro poultry farm at 400 Howard St. and has filed a purchase and sales agreement for 50 acres at 460 Howard St.

Both properties are under a tax relief program for agricultural land, and the town until Nov. 14 has first right of refusal in the purchase of 460 Howard St. at $575,000. But the Aro farm's right of refusal for 400 Howard St. expired without the town taking any action this summer.

Both the Conservation Commission and the Planning Office have recommended that the town look into acquiring the property for open space and passive recreation.

"This property abuts a landlocked piece of Conservation Land that connects with two other pieces of conservation land," read a report from Robert M. Verge, chairman of the Conservation Commission.

"This landlocked parcel also abuts land owned by the commonwealth - Pearl Hill - on the northwest side. This land is a sloping parcel with hardwood trees and laurel. Scattered about are medium and large boulders distributed during the Ice Age.

"Stone walls are still visible that were left by early farmers. The problem with all this land is there is no access. Acquiring 460 Howard St. would give the availability of off street parking and public access to the area for passive recreation," continued Mr. Verge.

Mr. O'Brien said he had come before the board at Tuesday night's meeting to have a "meeting of the minds" before any formal plans were initiated, and offered the town an access way to the landlocked conservation land, as well as the possibility of a large area of wetlands contained on the property.

The developer wants to build affordable "basic homes" on the land, which is in two parcels.

"The parcel on Howard Street would be a great asset to the town as open space, if it could be acquired," said Planning Director Marion M. Benson in an interview yesterday.

"However, if that does not happen, it is going to be developed and the town should seek through the planning process access to town conservation lands.

"The parcels will have to be thoroughly reviewed for compliance and mitigations, especially for traffic issues.

"Due to the lack of sewer, lot size of 40,000 square feet would prevail and at this point in time there are no plans for any sewer extensions in the area. The availability of town services must also be considered," said Mrs. Benson.

The town's Open Space Plan has expired at the state level, and grants or state aid for conservation purposes would not be available until an updated plan is filed.

The Planning Office is researching other avenues of funding to buy the land, according to Mrs. Benson.

In other business, the selectmen will vote on a 10-year Comcast cable contract at their Sept. 4 meeting. The final draft of the contract will be reviewed by the Cable Advisory Committee before the final vote.

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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Aug 23, 2007
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