Hollis to decide

HOLLIS – Residents will decide at tonight’s Special Town Meeting whether the town should purchase three parcels in order to have a say in their development.

The purchases would equal about 142 acres and cost the town about $2.9 million of the $5 million available for land acquisition this year. If the bond money is not spent by Dec. 31, it becomes unavailable.

The three parcels on the warrant are:

n The 40-acre Walker tree farm on Farley Road.

n The 60-acre Wright parcel on Wheeler Road.

n The 42-acre Hall Farm on Blood Road.

If the articles are approved, the Board of Selectmen would have the authority to purchase the land as well as develop a single house lot on two of the parcels.

While the three lots combined could support up to 35 house lots, selectmen hope that securing the right to develop on the two parcels would help prevent overdevelopment of the town.

The warrants for the Hall _and Walker lands include clauses that would give the town the right to develop up to 15 acres, earning the town as much as $650,000 on the money it spends. The resale of the single-house lots could possibly reduce the net purchase price for all three parcels to $750,000.

Gerry Gartner, chairman of the Land Protection Study Committee, previously has said the nine-member group decided to sell a portion of the parcels in order to recover costs while still protecting the land.

The committee came up with the business model after meeting with a land-buying group in Lincoln, Mass., that faced a similar problem with rapid development 10 years ago.

A simple majority vote at the meeting would approve the largest expenditure of land-acquisition bond money in the past three years. In 2001 and 2002, the committee used only about 35 percent of the available land-acquisition bond money.

“There is no specific push (this year) to get the land,” Gartner said. “It just so happens these lands became available. This is a good argument for having a fairly large bond authorized at the annual Town Meeting. If the town doesn’t have the money to purchase the land, someone else will.”

If approved, the vote would mark the first time the town would develop a portion of land designated for protection.