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Franklin - Local Town Pages

Town Council to Vote on Purchase of 61A “Maple Hill” Land

By J.D. O’Gara
Franklin residents who attended a public hearing regarding the town’s right of first refusal (ROFR) on the 61A designated 70-acre parcel of land off Maple Street, known as “Maple Hill,” were pleasantly surprised on June 9th to find that Franklin Town Council members seemed in support of purchasing the land for the town. Members of the Franklin Woods Homeowners’ Association, and others, spoke up to voice their hope that the land would not be developed and would become a resource to the town.
After the town received a Notice of Intent and Purchase & Sale for these two parcels off Maple Street on May 5, 2021, under Chapter 61A laws, the Town of Franklin had 120 days to exercise its Right of First Refusal, which means the decision must take place before September 2, 2021. The parcels recently were designated under Chapter 61A, in which the owner pays 3% of the total property tax value and the “Productive Woodland” portion of the land has an active 10-year State Forest Management Plan. Prior to FY21, the parcels fell under Chapter 61B for nearly 40 years, in which the property owner pays 25% of the full value of property taxes. The price of the parcels is $4,590,000.

Jamie Hellen, Franklin Town Administrator, sees this potential purchase as a particularly satisfying use of CPC funding right out of the gate for taxpayers.
“The fact that bills for surcharge will be July 1st, it’s a visual and moral victory. As your tax bill just went up, here’s what you can get right out of the gate, whether or not they voted for CPC last November. It’s a tangible thing for their money. If we weren’t able to use CPC, we’d have to put it in the town operating budget.”
The proposal is that Franklin will purchase the land using $1,559,858 from the Pond St. sewer bed sale 5 years ago and borrowing 2/3 of the parcel price ($3,030,142) against future CPA funds, which are anticipated, without the state match, to reach $1.379 million per year. Although finance rates may change by January 2022, when the borrowing would occur, over 20 years, the town would be looking at an estimated repayment of $212,000 per year from CPC funds, anticipating a 3.5% interest rate.
Now that both the Finance Committee and Community Preservation Committee have formally approved the purchase, a full Franklin Town Council vote should take place on July 21st, says Hellen.