- Written by Administrator
- Published: 03 February 2008
This announcement came at the Selectmen’s meeting on Monday night during a presentation about the farm by Mark Primack, Executive Director of the Wildlands Trust of Southeastern Massachusetts.
At the special town meeting, residents will decide whether to use $1.5 million in Community Preservation Act funds to purchase a conservation restriction on the 140-acre dairy farm on Winter St. and Autumn Ave. The conservation restriction will protect the property from development. The Wildlands Trust has a purchase and sale agreement to buy the farm for $4.3 million. Most of this money will come from private donations.
Owned by former Duxbury fire chief Carl O’Neil, the farm has been operating since 1736 and has been in the O’Neil family since 1829. It is the last working farm on the South Shore, said Primack.
The Wildlands Trust plans to preserve O’Neil’s land as a farm and make it an educational experience for children on the South Shore. Primack said that the project will guarantee that the land is protected in perpetuity and ownership of the land will belong to a charitable corporation that will operate the farm and find a farmer or group to keep agriculture alive on the land after O’Neil dies or moves on.
“Our goal is to ensure the farm remains in agricultural production,” said Primack. “It will be an opportunity to see a real farm and show the connection between the food and the land.”
This project is not seen as an open space purchase but as a “heritage project,” Primack added.
The Community Preservation Committee voted unanimously to endorse the conservation restriction for $1.5 million. Of this money, $750,000 will come from the 3 percent surcharge residents pay on top of their real estate taxes. The other $750,000 will come from a matching state grant. This year Duxbury’s CPA funds are expected to total $1.865 million. So far this fiscal year, the town has collected $522,131 in surcharge receipts; another $420,163 is expected before the fiscal year ends June 30. The 100 percent state match is $922,706.
“We think it is an extraordinary opportunity to leverage CPA funds,” said George Wadsworth of the Community Preservation Committee.
Primack said the Wildlands Trust has already raised $900,000 in commitments from private donors and must raise $1.4 million more. It is expecting a $500,000 grant from the Mass. Agricultural Preservation Restriction program. The state will hold an agricultural preservation restriction on the property.
Selectman John Tuffy asked Primack what will happen to the project if the funding doesn’t come through and Duxbury votes to buy the conservation restriction. In that case, Primack said, the conservation restriction would stand and no development could take place on the property, which contains 120 acres of upland.
Tuffy and Finance Committee Chairman Frank Mangione wanted to see the business plan for the deal that shows details of the project including the appraisal that says the conservation restriction is worth $1.5 million.
Mangione asked Primack why this project was not presented at the March 13 annual town meeting. Primack said that the purchase and sale agreement was signed in December but that the project had to go through the Community Preservation Committee first. According to Primack, the preservation effort was triggered by the death of O’Neil’s brother last year and the need to settle the estate for the brother’s heirs.
Wadsworth said it was a “very complex project” and that the Community Preservation Committee felt it was fine to present it at a special town meeting as other land purchases had been done that way in the past.
Selectmen did not call the special town meeting for June 14 but said they will set it when more details are finalized. They wanted to check with the school department to make sure the buildings were available for the special town meeting, which falls on the last week of school.