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Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The $25 million question

HOPKINTON

The future of 750 acres next to Weston Nurseries will likely be decided by town meeting in May, according to Muriel Kramer, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen.

Boulder Capital, a local real estate development company, has forged a deal with the brothers who own the land and the nursery to purchase the property. But the town has the right to match the offer of about $25 million because the property was enrolled in a state land preservation program that gave the owners local tax breaks.

Kramer said the town could afford to buy it, but it’s anybody’s guess if voters will want to take on the tax burden.

Roy MacDowell, president of Boulder Capital, said he wants to convince the town that his company will develop the land in a way that will make everyone happy.

“We want to do something [so that] when we all look back 10 years from now, the town’s proud of it, we’re proud of it,” he said.

Preliminary plans calls for roughly 1,000 units of housing, although MacDowell said everything is negotiable at this point. He said he envisions age-restricted and multi-family condominiums and rentals and some single-family houses, as well as mixed-use retail, open space, riding and walking trails, and a “more vibrant” Weston Nurseries.

Kramer said town meeting will likely be presented with several options – a much more complicated decision than simply whether to buy the land. Another option, for example: the town could assign its buying rights to a nonprofit land trust, which would partner with the town to develop a smaller portion of the land.

–Lisa Kocian

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