Conservators Seek to Acquire Angino Farm
When it rains, it pours-and fortunately, the availability of Community Preservation funds makes the Newton Conservators, working in close coordination with city government, a credible buyer of conservation property coming on line in Newton. Angino Farm is the latest in a string of properties that have long been on the Open Space Plan priority list to hit the market in the last year.
This new opportunity follows recent acquisitions of the Wilmerding and Forte properties (adjacent to Webster and Dolan Pond conservation areas, respectively) and the anticipated acquisition of Kesseler Woods in the Spring. Discussions regarding two other properties are also underway.
It's frightening to think about where we'd be without the successful passage of the Community Preservation Act more than two years ago. A look at the transformation taking place on the south side of Andover Newton Hill provides a clue-devastation of the natural landscape for construction of mega-homes and townhouses. Fortunately, the timing of recent opportunities has fallen into line with the availability of CPA funds, making the city a contender. The Conservators can take credit for its leadership in the passage of CPA, along with developing the expertise over recent years to act as agent in the acquisition of these properties as they come onto the market.
Following his death, Jerry Angino's sister, Rose Mitchell, lived in the house. After she died last year, the family decided to sell the property. The asking price is $3.5 million and the family has already turned down at least one offer. They and their broker are amenable to selling the property to the city by way of the Newton Conservators and a tentative offer has been accepted. As of this writing, the terms of a Purchase and Sale Agreement are being negotiated and will include two contingencies: that an independent appraisal be conducted to determine value of the property and that funding be arranged by June 1, 2004 .
The Conservators are funding an appraisal, with the expectation that we will be reimbursed through the Community Preservation Fund. Results are due by mid-March. Meanwhile, planning is underway to determine how the property would be used if purchased by the city. Possibilities on the table at this point include converting the house and/or the barn to two or more units of affordable housing, with the possibility of additional units if they are needed to make the project work. The 2344 square-foot, two-story house consists of nine rooms, with six bedrooms and two baths. It is in average condition and would need some work to make it useful as one or two units of housing. The barn is 900 square feet and it's not clear yet whether it can be affordably converted for housing.
The parcel is zoned for single family housing (SR1, requiring 25,000 square feet per lot), and with 350 feet of frontage, the property could hypothetically be subdivided to accommodate three new houses in addition to the existing one by right. A significant constraint is that a culverted stream apparently runs under the property. This means that a substantial portion of the land may be protected under both city ordinance and state wetlands law, which could reduce the buildable area. In addition, considerable grade changes could be required, since most of the land sits well below the adjacent Nahanton and Winchester Streets. Grade changes of more than three feet require a special permit.
Newton Pride is interested in the property for a greenhouse to aid their work in beautifying city gardens and grounds. Other suggestions for the site include a community garden or farm and various educational programs. Additional ideas are welcome, but must get into the script immediately so that planning can hold to an extremely tight schedule.
That schedule calls for an application to be filed with the Community Preservation Committee by March 3. The CPC would then hold a public hearing on the proposal on March 31. Action by CPC and the Board of Aldermen must be completed by June 1.
A small group representing the various interests in the project has been assembled under the leadership of the Newton Conservators. Interested groups include Newton Housing Authority (with whom we worked on the Forte acquisition), CAN-DO (a local affordable housing developer), Newton Historic Commission, Newton Pride and the Conservation Commission. If you have ideas or wish to help with this effort, contact Duane Hillis, chair of the Newton Conservators Land Acquisition Committee.
Doug Dickson, with input from Duane Hillis
Photos by Doug Dickson
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