, Salem, MA

Local News

March 18, 2013

Hamilton eyes $4M property

Aquila Farm includes manor house, stables on 80 acres

HAMILTON — Town officials are weighing options to buy a prominent, 80-acre property as a possible site for senior housing, playing fields or new schools.

Aquila Farm Equestrian Estate at 641 Bay Road is under agreement with a private developer who wants to purchase the $4 million property, but the town has the right of first refusal because of its agricultural designation. The designation has allowed the property to be assessed and taxed at a lower rate.

If the town passes on the opportunity, the property will likely by subdivided into six equestrian-themed homes, officials said.

The town has 120 days to make a decision to purchase the property, which is owned by Deidre Pirie. Selectmen have put together a group composed of members of the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, Conservation Commission and school officials to study the matter.

The property includes a five-bedroom manor house built in 2002, a guest house, multiple stables and an outdoor riding arena. Pirie, who has owned the property since 1960, declined comment when reached by phone.

The farm has been in operation since the 1750s and currently serves as an organic farm with greenhouse and as a boarding facility for horses. Aquila is Latin for eagle, and the farm gets its name from the bronze bird that can be seen perched over a stone monument directly across Bay Road (Route 1A) next to the First Congregational Church of Hamilton.

Pirie got Planning Board approval on Jan. 30 to change the property from a three-lot subdivision to a six-lot subdivision. When the property was divided into the three lots in 1997, the Planning Board stipulated that the property could not be further subdivided into more than six lots, according to Kristine Cheetham, planning coordinator.

Selectman Jeff Stinson said the Pirie Property Committee is meeting about twice a week to ponder possible uses for the land. A Special Town Meeting would be needed in order for the town to purchase the land within the 120-day timeline.

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