“Special Election Nov. 24 to protect Whittier Farms
The Town of Sutton is holding a special election on Tuesday November 24th, 2009 from 7am-8pm to consider a debt exclusion of $280,000, for the purpose of becoming a co-holder, with the State of Massachusetts, of an Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) on 314 acres of land currently owned by Whittier Farms Inc. The APR program is a voluntary program that offers an alternative to owners of farmland who choose to see the property protected rather than sell it for development. The APR program offers to pay farmland owners the difference between the “fair market value” and the “agricultural value” of their property in exchange for a permanent deed restriction that prevents the land from ever being developed for anything other than a farm purpose. The Whittiers are seeking the APR for 378 acres of land: 314 acres off Town Farm Road and Douglas Road in Sutton and 64 acres in Oxford.
The State Department of Agriculture has determined that the Town’s share to co-hold the APR is 10% of the State’s acquisition price. The special election on Tuesday November 24th, 2009 is for the voters to consider the debt exclusion of $280,000. If Town Meeting does not support this article or the voters turn down the debt exclusion then the Whittier’s will have the option of withdrawing from the APR agreement with the State and not protecting the 314 acres in Sutton.
In addition, if the debt exclusion vote passes, the Town will move forward with the purchase, for $24,000, of approximately 5-6 acres of land located at 150 Town Farm Rd, currently owned by Whittier Farms Inc, for the purpose of installing a cell tower. The property in question is located at the highest point in Town at an elevation of approximately 830 feet. Town bylaws restrict the locations of cell towers to Commercial and Industrial property or Town owned land held in the care and custody of the Board of Selectmen. Our goal is to construct a cell tower that will help address the lack of cell phone coverage in West Sutton and generate revenue from Cell carriers that will be used towards the debt service on the $280,000 borrowed to pay for the APR. The Town will need to vote annually at Town meeting to use revenues from the cell tower to offset the debt service from the debt exclusion vote.
The question on the November 24th ballot is as follows:
Shall the Town of Sutton be allowed to exempt from the provisions of Proposition two and one-half, so-called, the amount required to pay for the bond issued in order to contribute funds to be used by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to acquire an agricultural preservation restriction held by the Town and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on property owned by Whittier Farms, Inc., located on Town Farm Road and Douglas Road, Sutton and containing a total of 314 acres, more or less? “