Land issue could be in voters' hands

AMHERST – Whether to buy 104 acres of open space for conservation may be out of selectmen’s hands. The board has received a petition warrant article that, if deemed valid, would let voters decide.

The town’s Open Space Advisory Committee is recommending the town buy the land, which straddles the town line with Bedford, from resident Gertrude W. Martin for $1.89 million, which was the land’s market value as of Sept. 1.

Sixty-seven acres are in Amherst and the other 37 are in Bedford.

Selectmen had the authority to buy the land after the second public hearing Dec. 1 unless someone filed a petition before the land was bought. By law, the selectmen would have had to buy the land in a window starting seven days after second public hearing but no longer than 14 days.

But Monday afternoon, resident Bonnie Knott filed a petition warrant article to put the issue of the purchase in voters’ hands. To be valid, the petition would need signatures from 50 registered voters.

During Monday night’s selectmen’s meeting, board members said it was unclear whether Knott’s petition had enough valid signatures.

If the petition does have enough signatures, the issue will be decided at town vote in March.

Knott filed the petition because she wanted the decision to be as democratic as possible.

“It’s a lot of money all the voters should have their say,” Knott said.