While there have been many behind-the-scenes and informal discussions about the future of the North 40 property that the town agreed in late 2014 to buy from Wellesley College for $35M, the largely undeveloped 46-acre parcel is now making its way back onto public meeting agendas.
The Community Preservation Committee (CPC), which makes recommendations to Town Meeting on how to use Community Preservation Act funds, actually has been discussing a North 40 deed restriction plan at its monthly meetings since at least February. North 40-related funding was also part of the CPC spending approved at this past spring’s Town Meeting.
This past week the CPC chair briefed the Select Board on the Committee’s progress on the area it would like to see fall under a deed restriction.
Some $10M in CPC funds were used for the original North 40 purchase, and as a result, the CPC has a sort of claim to more than a quarter of the land (the CPC is approaching this claim based on a percentage of the acres rather than on land value, which in this case is tricky to appraise). The CPC is proposing some 18-20 acres go under its deed restriction that would limit uses of that property. This might include a strip that could provide access to the North 40 from Weston Road next to the home at 156 Weston Rd., which the town is looking to possibly use for affordable housing.
While no grand plan for the North 40 has been hatched, the property along Weston and Turner Roads near Morses Pond continues to be used for its hiking trails, vernal pool gazing, and community gardens. In recent years the town has covered the roughly 5-acre portion once used for a dump and put that area off-limits (doing a full-blown mitigation of that area is estimated to cost tens of millions). Certain parts of the property, including a 6-acre segment south of the Cochituate Aqueduct (“the southern six”), are required to be open space per the development agreement.
“There’s been enough growth and change in town that when the Select Board is ready to look at the possible uses for the land, it could be different than we ever thought about 12 years ago,” McMahon said during the June 14 CPC meeting.
Problem solvers in town have made numerous suggestions for North 40 uses, from housing to playing fields to pickleball courts to a dog park. Under rules of the original purchase and sales agreement, at least half of the property must be designated as open space (not necessarily under a deed restriction).
The CPC’s Barbara McMahon shared with the Select Board during its July 24 meeting (see Wellesley Media recording, about 2 hours, 50 minutes in) an update on where the Committee has landed with its thinking on the deed restriction. This included a map of the area proposed to be under the CPC deed restriction. Select Board Chair Lise Olney commented on the fact that “this is not an easy or straightforward calculation” and thanked the CPC for doing so much work on this.
What allowed uses would be under the deed restriction might be a topic for an upcoming CPC discussion with the Select Board, McMahon said.
Looking ahead to Sept. 23, the Wellesley Trails Committee will be leading a guided hike at the North 40.
Please send tips, photos, ideas to email@example.com