Milton officials say they are finally moving forward with the sale of the “Town Farm” after receiving state approval to develop the land.
The decision, issued by a probate court judge on Jan. 23, concludes a three-year process to gain a decision from the court and the Attorney General on whether the town’s “Poor Farm” could be used for a residential development.
The state “approved the ability of the town to sell the property,” said Milton Town Planner William Clark. “The town can sell it and can use this mechanism.”
The issue has been ongoing since 2011, when town officials put out a Request for Proposals for 34 acres of land called the Town Farm.
Gifted to the town by Governor William Stoughton upon his death in 1701, the then 40-acres of land was required to be used for the town’s poor. The stipulations of the will were adhered to by a trust, comprised of the town’s Board of Selectmen and created for oversight purposes.
For nearly 300 years, the poor benefited from the land. The “woodlot” was used initially to create jobs. In the 1840s, the land was a “Poor Farm”, where the poor of Milton came to live and work. The first highway department employees lived on the land, and over time the land and building were leased out, with proceeds going to help the poor.
In early 2011, town officials decided to sell the 34 acres of land - six acres were taken by the state in the 1890s as part of the Blue Hills Reservation. In sale documents, town officials said the property was “underutilized for its intended purpose”.
Funds from the sale were to be given to the town’s poor.
By October 2011, a purchase and sale had been drawn up with high bidder Pulte Homes of New England LLC to buy 30 acres for $5 million.
The remaining four acres were to stay in the town’s possession, keeping the two old Almshouses, a stable, a pest house – used to quarantine people with smallpox, and the Milton Animal Shelter in the town’s control.
According to Clark, the type of will and the inclusion of a trust mandated approval from both probate court and the Attorney General.
The Attorney General process, which only concluded this past summer, took the longest amount of time for review. Clark wouldn’t specify the reason for the delay, but said the Probate Court process began soon thereafter.
The court decision will make way for the construction of 23 New England-style homes to be built on the lot, the first of its kind to be built under the town’s “cluster subdivision” bylaw that allows homes to be built closer together.
Under the confines of the purchase and sale, the developer can exchange some of their land for the additional four acres of land on the lot if the construction of 23 houses isn’t possible with the existing terrain.
According to Clark, Pulte has until April 5 to do site engineering, a process that will solidify which land will remain the town’s.
“They can’t take more than 30 acres, but they will affirm what the boundary is going to look like,” Clark said.
The Conservation Commission and Planning Board will need to approve the final development.
The Board of Selectmen will remain the trustees of the funding behind the sale, and will appropriate the money to the “town’s poor” at a later time, Clark said.