Residents of an affluent Boston suburb voted overwhelmingly last night to purchase $3.5 million worth of parkland from Harvard's Arnold Arboretum for $3.5 million dollars.
Nearly 900 residents packed a high school auditorium to vote in a true New England-style town meeting on whether Weston should buy 40 acres of land in the heart of town. By a vote of 741 to 158, Weston achieved the two-thirds needed to acquire the University-owned property.
The special town meeting came two days after a majority voted in a similar referendum to increase taxes in order to purchase the land.
Harvard approached the Town of Weston last spring with the offer to sell the property as a fundraiser for Harvard's financially-troubled Arnold Arboretum. The Arboretum is a 110-acre botanical research center which also maintains property in Boston's Jamaica Plain.
If Weston had decided to turn down the offer, Harvard was prepared to sell the acreage to two executives of Cambridge's General Computer Corporation, said Harold Hestnes '58, an attorney who lives in the affluent suburb.
Hestnes said the corporation stated in an October 21 letter that it would preserve a 250-foot strip of land for conservation, but that the owner could still build roads, sidewalks, and lighting on that strip.
The agreement with the corporation would also limit the number of homes built on the 40 acre site to eight, but no provision was made pertaining to the location or architecture of the houses.
Most residents at last night's town meeting said they had property values and tax increases on the mind. Though the average value of a house in Weston is currently $228,000, home owners could pay an additional $546 in property taxes under the recently-passed tax increase, said William T. Sandalls Jr., a 41-year-old banker on Weston's finance committee.
Weston's three town selectman will now appoint a special committee to study possible uses for the land. Harvard officials said they expect to close the deal with Weston by January