$22.5M Sale on Town’s Ballot

Weston will decide whether to buy Case Estates from Harvard-owned arboretum

Voters in the Town of Weston may be seeing less crimson—but more green—after they go to the polls today.

The town, with about 11,500 residents, will decide whether to pledge $22.5 million to purchase 62.5 acres of land from Harvard.

The land, originally given to the University’s Arnold Arboretum in 1946 by Marion Case, a Weston resident, could be sold to a developer if voters do not approve the measure.

The University chose to sell the property “because it has no utility for the Arboretum,” according to Harvard spokeswoman Lauren Marshall. “The proceeds will go to support the academic mission of the Arboretum, which also serves as a public park.”

She added that the University was offering the town a “fair market price” below the land’s appraised value of $25 million.

The green yard signs saying “Save the Case Estates” that have popped up around town signal that Weston residents will support the purchase, according to Town Manager Donna S. VanderClock.

“The estates occupy a key position in the town, and they are a vital piece of the town’s history,” VanderClock said.

Weston proposes to finance the purchase by issuing bonds, selling 10 parcels of the land for development, and recovering the remainder in increased property taxes.

VanderClock explained that the taxes should impose a mininimal burden on residents of the town, whose median household income of $153,918 was the highest in the state, according to the 2000 census.

“The median real estate tax increase will only be $57 a year on average over the next 20 years,” she said.

Amanda Jordan-Smith, 42, who has lived in Weston for two years, said she was pleased that the town seemed poised to preserve the open space.

“I’ve got two dogs that I walk there, and it’s nice that it’s near the school where my kids go,” said Jordan-Smith, who has a 10 year-old son and an 8 year-old daughter.

Joshua M. Isner ’09 of Weston said that his family members would likely vote for the land purchase. “I think most people want to keep it in Weston’s hands,” he said.

Today’s vote will only determine whether to exclude debt service on the bonds from Proposition 2 1/2, a statewide law approved in 1980 that limits the tax burden that municipalities can impose. A town meeting tomorrow will determine whether or not to actually approve the purchase.