Wellesley Town Meeting voted Yes on Tuesday night on motions to acquire 1.3 acres of property at 818, 822 and 826 Worcester St., near Hardy Elementary School for a combined $3.5M by mid-May.
It will add value to the school site for the town, bringing the overall size of the lot to about 9 acres and improving the geometric shape of it, as outlined by Selectmen Jack Morgan during the Special Town Meeting (see Wellesley Public Media video). Importantly, it could help to alleviate Weston Road traffic by allowing access via Rte. 9 directly to Hardy or any new school that could be built on the site, he said.
A developer had originally attempted to purchase 818 and 822 Worcester St., for the purpose of developing a proposed 28-unit 40B project. The town claims it is not buying those properties to “prevent a 40B,” and wound up agreeing with the developer and property owners on a price without resorting to eminent domain, which was an option.
The town didn’t have such leverage on 826 Worcester St., so wound up paying more of a premium for that property, as the owners plan to seek a new place to live in Wellesley and will need a pretty penny to do so.
The acquisitions would be made for school, recreation, or general municipal purposes to be under the care of the BOS. Proposed amendments to reword the motions that would give the School Committee oversight of how the land might be used for school purposes were rejected.
No rezoning of the property is anticipated for commercial uses or affordable housing.
The town has a long history of buying property with either immediate needs in mind or with a long-term view for potential uses. Morgan, in discussing the Worcester Street properties at Special Town Meeting, cited such land purchases as those later used to house the senior center and P.A.W.S. preschool next to Fiske Elementary School.