In Wellesley’s latest effort to take more control of development in town, the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday said it’s exploring the possibility of buying three properties on Rte. 9 East that are adjacent to Hardy Elementary School.
Purchasing the properties at 818, 822 and 826 Worcester St., would both enable the town to play some defense against a proposed 40B project at two of those properties and also open the possibility for municipal uses for the land. Wellesley is becoming increasingly proactive about land development in light of a slew of 40B proposals launched over the past year designed to exploit the town’s shortage of affordable housing stock. Among other things, Wellesley has a Housing Production Plan in the works.
The town is cryptic about what possible municipal uses of 818-822-826 Worcester St., might be, but for those holding out hope that the Hardy school will not be done away with under the much discussed Hardy-Hunnewell-Upham plan, such a land grab holds great promise. The Board of Selectmen and School Committee will seek funding at a Special Town Meeting this spring to conduct further analysis of the Hardy and Upham Elementary School sites as the town plots its educational future.
“The Board [with the School Committee’s backing] believes that the purchase of these properties will substantially improve the long-term usefulness of the site to the Town by providing for a means of access and egress directly from Route 9 as well as adding over an acre of land. We are currently in discussions with the owners of these parcels and look forward to providing an update to the community as soon as we are able to,” according to a statement issued by the Board.
What’s murky here is that a developer says he already has a purchase and sale agreement in place with the owners of 818 and 822 Worcester St., and has aired plans to use the properties to construct a 4-story, 28-unit 40B condo complex. The developer’s lawyer spoke briefly at Tuesday’s Selectmen’s meeting to share his client’s objection to the town’s intentions, especially in light of there not being a solid plan for Hardy’s future.
An additional threat by the town to possibly take the properties by eminent domain, if a valuation on the properties can’t be agreed upon, no doubt has rubbed the developer the wrong way. This same developer has already had challenges with plans for a couple of 40B proposals near the Sprague Elementary School.
The town is negotiating separately with 826 Worcester St.’s owner.