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Malden buys High Rock land for $1.85m

Posted by Matt Byrne  October 3, 2011 10:04 AM

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From left, City Councillors Jim Nestor, Craig Spadafora, Judi Bucci, Gary Christenson, Greg Lucey, Neil Kinnon, and Maplewood Highlands Association president Mike Cipriano.

After decades of advocacy by neighbors for its preservation, the City of Malden closed on the purchase of High Rock, the last swath of undeveloped land in the city, an official said.

The craggy, wooded 8-acre patch nestled in the Maplewood section of east Malden sold for $1.85 million, said Neil C. Kinnon, city councilor for Ward 6 where the property is located.

"I believe when we look back 10, 20, and 30 years from now, people will know this was the right thing to do and that it was done at the right time," said Kinnon in a statement.

The funding was approved by the City Council in March as part of a $6.95 million bond to pay for 10 capital projects. The city plans to pay off the debt with new annual revenue generated from the local option meals tax passed in January.

The land had been a contentious issue for the neighborhood for 30 years, Kinnon said, and most recently was the subject of a lengthy court battle by a Somerville developer who sough to build 18 homes on the tract.

In that fight, the Malden planning board originally rejected the development proposal in 2003, but was ordered by a state land court to approval the plans, which would have required heavy blasting to clear the dense rock that gives the parcel its name.

Kinnon said he pushed for the acquisition to right an imbalance in where public green space is located throughout the city, in a phone interview.

"On the whole east side of the city there is little or no open space," said Kinnon, who said the acquisition benefits property values across Malden, and questioned how much more population density the city should handle.

"The denser a community it is, it generally does not bode well for your infrastructure, your school system, and your social consequences in terms of crime and everything else," he said.

Kinnon said he will explore creating a public park there, for which planning was completed in the 1970s, he said.

The Maplewood Highlands Neighborhood Association has vociferously opposed the development plans, said Kinnon, calling the purchase a victory for the 400 neighbors in the immediate area and the city as a whole.

The area has been cited as a natural refuge amidst an urban landscape largely bereft of untouched, city-owned green space. Advocates say the property is also home to coyotes, foxes, wild turkey, deer, and other animals.

From its peak -- the highest in the city, at over 200 feet above sea level -- hikers and visitors can  see expansive views of the Boston skyline and the ocean beyond.

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