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Hingham finalizes purchase of open space, hopes for grants to offset cost

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  July 10, 2012 03:40 PM

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While Hingham officials work to finalize the purchase of two parcels of conservation land approved by Town Meeting, members of the Community Preservation Committee are searching for alternative ways of funding it.

In April, Town Meeting approved $805,000 for the purchase of a 9.75-acre parcel off Scotland Street, and unanimously approved $755,000 for the purchase of 31 acres of land off Main Street, which abuts Accord Brook.

According to the Town Meeting warrant, acquiring the Scotland Street land was to protect the natural beauty of the area.

“Acquisition and preservation of this property will significantly enhance the environmental; value of this entire 125-acre conservation area in perpetuity,” the warrant said.

Furthermore, purchasing the land snuggled beside Accord Pond, which is a reservoir for the town, was paramount, the warrant said. “Ownership by the town will protect this important source of drinking water which may be threatened if development of the property occurs,” the warrant said.

Although the town is prepared to pay both amounts by using money from the Community Preservation Committee, and finalized the purchase and sale of both parcels with CPC money on Monday night, officials hope that a grant might offset some of the costs.

“[Town Meeting] voted the price, but we’re hoping to get some assistance,” said Selectman Bruce Rabuffo. “If we take all of that money out of what the town gets in CPC funds, it doesn’t leave us a lot. This was one of the ways to keep us from dipping into it.”

Although the town is looking to supplement the funding, the price has not increased since the Town Meeting vote, Rabuffo said.

“That is the purchase price, but we’re looking at this grant, which will assist to minimize the cost to the taxpayer,” Rabuffo said.

The town is seeking a grant of $400,000 for the two properties through the state's Natural Diversity Program, which helps local conservation commissions acquire land to protect natural resources and provide passive outdoor recreation.

If that grant falls doesn't come through, the town may be able to apply for a different grant, which would only be be used for the Main Street property.

Rabuffo was unsure how much the town would apply for through the second grant.

Both properties would be used as conservation land, Rabuffo said, and there is no planned development on either.

Although the sale of the Main Street property is scheduled to close on Dec. 31, there may be problems with the Scotland Street property, which is scheduled to close on Dec. 21.

According to Rabuffo, there is pending litigation with the property due to a previous 40B housing proposal. The case is making its way through Housing Appeals Court, Rabuffo said.

Before both parties can close on the deal, the litigation have to be withdrawn, he said.

Besides that one delay, everything else is going as planned, Rabuffo said.

“I asked [Community Preservation members] if this a normal duration time subsequent to a Town Meeting vote, and they said plus or minus a week, this is where we should be,” Rabuffo said.

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