SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

June 20, 2013

Estates expected to get 'agricultural' tax breaks

(Continued)

Johnson said Pirie had a farm manager and maintained the property as a small-scale working farm. The farm has been in operation since the 1750s and most recently served as an organic farm with a greenhouse and as a boarding facility for horses.

“These will be backyards,” Johnson said of the new developments. “They will not be operating these properties as a farm in any sense of the word. These will be pastures and horse turnout areas, which don’t qualify under 61A.”

Selectman Jennifer Scuteri agreed.

“The legislation was intended to protect and preserve local farms, not the backyards of McMansions,” she said.

Johnson, however, said it’s all legal because they will meet the requirement under state law.

Once the 86-acre property is split into the six lots, they will be sold to the individual builders, Kroesser wrote in the letter. It is unknown how each property owner plans to use the properties for agricultural or horticultural purposes.

Kroesser did not return phone calls seeking comment on the properties that will qualify for 61A. Lawrence Frej, a principal for UpperCross, declined comment.

Town officials proposed that the town purchase the land to use it for conservation, public horseback riding and hiking trails, and sports fields, and to sell a portion to a developer to build a cluster of cottage-style homes, duplexes or senior apartments.

At Town Meeting, Selectman Scott Maddern said using 14 acres of the land for mixed-use housing could have brought in an estimated $500,000 to $525,000 in increased tax revenue to the town, while the plan by UpperCross would bring in about $170,000.

UpperCross claimed that the property, including two additional properties on Bay Road owned by Pirie, would bring in between $225,000 and $250,000 in tax revenue. The town did not include the two additional properties in its figures because the town wouldn’t have bought them.

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