Most in favor of plan to buy 104 acres

AMHERST – Residents packed Town Hall on Monday to speak mostly in favor of purchasing a large property straddling the town line with Bedford.

Among the crowd was Dave Schmida.

“To miss this opportunity would be a big mistake,” Schmida said. “This is the best opportunity I’ve ever heard of.”

The opportunity Schmida was referring to at the second public hearing hosted by selectmen was buying about 104 acres of open space for $1.89 million.

The town’s Open Space Advisory Committee is recommending the town buy the land from resident Gertrude W. Martin for the land’s market value as of Sept. 1. Sixty-seven acres are in Amherst and the other 37 are in Bedford.

Martin wants to sell the property because she is moving.

The property consists of a residence, an attached shed and barn, an unattached barn, a swimming pool and a tennis court. The home dates back to 1780, said committee Chairman Bob Heaton.

Other supporters included a group of middle school students from Team Atmosphere, part of the Lego First program. The group is in favor of the purchase for environmental reasons.

However, not everyone was as enthused. Carol Hughes expressed reservations about the town buying the house. She insisted the home be inspected if it had to be bought.

Other residents wanted to know more about the cost involved in the purchase and asked for more information about the deal with Martin.

In 2005, selectmen were given the authority to bond $5.5 million for open space and so far selectmen have only spent $300,000. That authority ends June 30, 2010.

Selectmen have the authority to buy the land after the second public hearing was held. The first public hearing was in mid-November. Selectmen could decide to buy the land next week or the week after.

However, a petitioned warrant article signed by 50 residents could force the issue into voters’ hands in March.