No funds available now for land, Woburn says

Builder eyes new Spence Farm site

By John Laidler
Globe Correspondent / June 16, 2011

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A local builder whose plan for a subdivision on part of Spence Farm prompted Woburn to buy a 7.58-acre section of the land last year is now proposing a residential project elsewhere on the property.

But city officials said Woburn, because of financial constraints, has no plans to try to purchase the 11-acre site on Wyman Street that the Melanson Development Group Inc. is now targeting for development.

“We are not in a position to do it,’’ said Mayor Scott D. Galvin.

The Planning Board on Tuesday was scheduled to open a public hearing into the Woburn company’s subdivision plan for the parcel. Melanson, which has an agreement to buy the land from Spence family trusts, seeks to construct 23 single-family homes on the 11 acres, according to its owner, Bryan E. Melanson.

The parcel is down the street from the 7.58-acre section that Woburn acquired from the family last year for $2.4 million.

Woburn was spurred to acquire the farmland, which is being maintained for agricultural use, after Melanson Development reached an agreement to purchase it for $2.4 million as part of plans to build a 17-home subdivision.

The land was designated under a state agricultural protection program, Chapter 61A, that gave Woburn the right to purchase the property by matching the sales price.

City officials at the time expressed hope that at some point the city might be able to acquire the rest of the Spence Farm property, which includes a 14-acre section as well as the 11-acre parcel.

But Galvin termed that year-ago wish no longer realistic.

“It would be nice to buy it, but you do have to balance your needs. I think we bought more open space in one year than the city had bought in 50 years combined,’’ Galvin said, pointing to the purchases of the Spence Farm land and the 74.4-acre Whispering Hills site the city acquired from Northeastern University.

“I’m proud of that accomplishment,’’ he said, but the city needs to “move over to competing needs.’’

The mayor also noted that the 11-acre site is not under Chapter 61A, so the city does not have a “right of first refusal’’ on it.