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Williamsburg parcel back on the Block – delay of sale rescinded.
Daily Hampshire Gazette, August 11, 2004

By Sean Reagan, Staff Writer

WILLIAMSBURG – An agreement struck last week between state Rep. Stephen Kulik and an Office of Commonwealth Development official to delay an auction of state land in town was scuttled without explanation late Monday, frustrating residents and town officials. The parcel, approximately 28 acres of undeveloped land on Depot Road, will be sold today by the state at a; public auction in Framingham. To sweeten the deal for Williamsburg, though, the state has attached a few restrictions to the sale.

Earlier this year, the state declare the land surplus property an announced plans to sell it at auction. The property was acquired more than 125 years ago for the state Department of Mental Health but was never developed. At a hearing last month, residents and town officials objected to the sale and called for a postponement. On Thursday, Kulik announced that Office of Commonwealth Development Deputy Secretary Stephen Burrington had agreed to postpone the auction for at least six months to give residents and town officials time to try acquiring the property for conservation purposes.

Kulik said that the agreement with Burrington came about after efforts to negotiate a postponement with officials at the state Division of Capital Asset Management failed. The Office of Commonwealth Development, said Kulik, was created by Gov Mitt Romney to oversee and coordinate sustainable development of natural environments and has oversight authority of DCAM, which is coordinating today’s auction.

According to aides for Kulik, a Worthington Democrat who is on vacation this week, Burringtons order removing the Depot Road property from auction was withdrawn following a meeting late Monday between OCD and DCAM officials. No explanation for the decision was given, aides said Tuesday. Burrington was unavailable for comment today. Kevin Flanagan, a DCAM spokesman, said Tuesday the auction would proceed as planned but noted several concessions had been made to satisfy local concerns. Whoever purchases the property, he said, must keep the existing trail network open for public use as well as maintain the property’s stone walls. Finally, potential buyers are being made aware of Williamsburg’s zoning bylaws, which may impact how the property can be developed.

Still, the 11th-hour reversal did not sit well in Williamsburg. I’m just curious why it fell apart so quickly, given all the legwork that Rep. Kulik and others did on this,” said Eric Cerreta, who chairs the Board of Selectmen. “A lot of effort went into this.” Cerreta said he spent most of Tuesday trying to contact state officials in what he admitted was probably a vain effort to secure another postponement, noting that many residents and town officials had relied on the postponement announced by Kulik. Charlie Wyman, a land protection specialist with the Massachusetts Audubon Society, said a “sympathetic private party” would be bidding on the property today. If that buyer’s bid prevails, he said, it has agreed to give Massachusetts Audubon and the town an opportunity to raise funds to purchase the property for preservation purposes. “It does give us an opportunity and a chance to preserve the property,” said Wyman. “We’re going to keep our fingers crossed.” The parcel forms a link between two parcels already owned by the Massachusetts Audubon Society.

Resident Jacquelyn Compton said that while she was disappointed with the reversal, she remained hopeful the parcel will ultimately remain open space. “We feel that this land special value as conservation land,” she said. “Hopefully, we’ll still be able to work something out to protect it.”

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