Land purchase articles pass at Marion Town Meeting

Residents approve waste district exit
Nov 5, 2020

MARION — All nine articles on the warrant at Marion’s Nov. 5 Special Town Meeting passed, including the purchase of a conservation restriction on 33.7 acres of land known as the Hoff property and the town’s exit from the Carver Marion Wareham Regional Refuse District.

Though they all passed, some of the articles didn’t get by without a debate. 

Article five asked Town Meeting voters to authorize the of purchase a $300,000 conservation restriction by the Marion Open Space Acquisition Commission on the Hoff property, a 33.7 acre parcel of land adjacent to Sippican Lands Trust properties.

Articles six through eight asked voters to accept three conservation restrictions donated from properties surrounding the Hoff Property. In total, the town would have conservation restrictions on over 42 acres of land.

The land purchase came about from a joint effort between MOSAC and the Sippican Lands Trust. 

The $300,000 price tag will be offset through a $75,000 donation from the Lands Trust who will take possession of the land and its upkeep. 

The restrictions in articles six through eight will help MOSAC qualify for a grant to further offset the cost of the land by up to $50,000 by having at least 50 acres of wetlands on the property.

MOSAC Chair John Rockwell said the commission hasn’t purchased a large plot of land in ten years, so he and other members, “thought it was a good deal for us.”

Residents voiced concerns about how the deal is going down and what it does for the town.

Resident and former Finance Committee member Alan Minard pointed out that the town’s goal is to have 25% of all land be protected, and “we are well over our stated goal for land.”

Rockwell said in response that this goal has changed over time based on surveys that MOSAC puts out every several years. 

With Minard’s concern on what this does to the tax base, Rockwell said that it will raise taxes for homes valued over $500,000 by $1 per year. He also stated that when the committee bought 631 acres in 2001, it raised the tax percentage by nine one-hundredths of 1%. 

Multiple residents were concerned about this purchase at a time where Marion’s taxes and water bills are steadily increasing, so Rockwell took the time to lay out the deal’s finances.

The $225,000 to purchase the Hoff property is coming from the Marion Land Bank. This fund contains protected money that was donated to only be used to buy land. He said the land won’t be bought with taxpayer money. 

“Really we should be looking somewhere else if we want to figure out this problem,” Rockwell said about rising taxes in Marion. 

Mid-way through the debate, Town Assessor Patricia DeCosta voiced her confusion as to why the Buzzards Bay Coalition is the current owner of the land. 

Rockwell explained that the land was originally offered for $955,000. After working with the property owner’s broker, a deal was made for $300,000 if it was purchased within 30 days.

MOSAC approached the coalition to ask if it would buy the land, which it did last Friday. 

The coalition owns the land until MOSAC pays the money back, he said, adding that the coalition doesn’t want to own the land. 

After this, two residents came up back-to-back and said that if the coalition has the money to buy the land, then the town shouldn’t be buying it. 

“They did us a favor,” Rockwell said.

In regards to how much the town would lose from its tax base, DeCosta said Marion will lose $4,763.60 annually. 

“I’m in favor of it, I just don’t like the way it was presented,” she said. 

In as much concern there was for the deal, many residents also favored the land protection. 

“It’s worth it and the money is there,” Susannah Davis said. She uses the property five days a week to walk her dog. Lately, she has seen more people out there because of covid, and advocated to keep it. 

Town Meeting also passed four other articles on the warrant.

In regards to the waste district, Town Meeting took the recommendation of Selectmen to leave the Carver Marion Wareham Regional Refuse District in article three and to accept the Benson Brook Transfer Station and its equipment for use in article four. 

Residents also voted yes to transfer $22,000 from the town’s waterways fund to the Harbormaster’s office to fix a broken engine on one of its boats in article one, put $112,363.91 from excess funding from past Town Meeting articles towards the Town House renovation project in article two, and put the Town House annex under a perpetual preservation restriction.