Selectmen request Chestnut Street property be pulled from auction

Selectmen are asking town Treasurer/Collector Sonia Hodge to pull off the table one of the Chestnut Street properties up for auction next month.

The 11-acre parcel on the northwest edge of town has received increased attention in recent weeks as more people learned more about the auction, which is scheduled for August 10.

In a letter sent to Hodge, Selectmen Chairman Kevin DiMarzio said the board will be reconstituting the dormant Open Space Committee and wants the property reviewed by that panel.

“After reviewing the geographic characteristics of this lot with the Town Manager I feel that it is necessary that a more comprehensive review is conducted to determine whether this parcel should be considered for transfer to Conservation Land and protected as open space,” DiMarzio wrote.

Hodge did not immediately return a call from Abington News seeking comment on the letter.

The heavily wooded property is one of 13 town-owned lots up for auction next month. The properties are a combination of lots the town has owned for decades and parcels it took after the owners stopped paying property taxes.

The land abuts a commercial condo development to the west, National Grid-owned utility lines to the east, and the Quan Am Linh Ung Me Hien Temple to the south. However, it is also part of a larger undeveloped, environmentally sensitive swath of land that starts in the Braintree Highlands and runs down into Brockton. It includes the Holbrook Town Forest, Great Pond in Weymouth, Ames Nowell State Park, and Brockton’s Beaver Brook Conservation Land.

Abington’s Master Plan, which was prepared by the Planning Board and endorsed by the Board of Selectmen in 2019, recommended that the town preserve the wooded land north of Chestnut Street, which includes the parcel up for auction.

[Abington News reported previously that all the lots up for auction next month were approved by voters at the 2017 Annual Town Meeting. Turns out that’s not accurate. A majority of the lots, including the Chestnut Street property, were taken by tax title and under state law didn’t need Town Meeting approval to be auctioned of. Properties such as 168 Bank Street (which the town has owned since 1871) and 930 Washington Street (1896) were approved to be auctioned off by Town Meeting. In her role as Town Treasurer/Collector, Hodge was largely responsible for putting together the final slate of properties being auctioned off and coordinating the event.]

Selectmen reviewed the list of parcels being auctioned off multiple times in recent weeks and did not raise any questions about the Chestnut Street parcel. But that changed in recent days.

A number of residents had started raising concerns via Facebook about the ecological value of conserving the land.

DiMarzio said the group’s advocacy did not play a role in his request to Hodge.

“This was a unique property that through discussion with the [Town Manager] it became clear that we needed to hold off here and that led into questions about the open space committee and how it needs to be re-established for properties like this,” he told Abington News.

The auction will take place August 10 at Noon at the Senior Center. Minimum bids start at $5,000 or $10,000 depending on the lot.

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