Part of historic horse farm to be sold for housing

Jul 13, 2020

Part of the historic Merrylegs Farm in Padanaram will be sold off for residential use after the Select Board voted to allow the move at a July 13 meeting.

Farm owner Laurel Owen needs town approval to sell the land due to an agricultural restriction on it.

The restriction offers local tax benefits in order to preserve farmland. If the land is sold for nonagricultural use, the town has the option to buy it.

The horse farm has been in the Owen family for about 130 years, Laurel’s brother Christopher told the board at the meeting.

A little more than seven acres of the land will be sold off to build two single-family homes.

“Due to [Laurel’s] declining health and also financial situation, we found it necessary to sell off a parcel of the property in order to save the rest of the farm and also pay for her care,” Owen said, calling the decision “heartbreaking.”

He noted that only two houses will be built on the land, and more than 70-80 percent of it would remain wetlands and woodland.

Planning Director Christine O’Grady stated that since the two lots in question are almost entirely wetlands, there isn’t much room for development. 

“The vast majority of it is going to stay in a protected state in some regard,” she said.

However, O’Grady noted that she had heard “a lot of concern” from residents after a Planning Board meeting on the matter in June.

“I had received a number of comments and phone calls after the fact with regard to this particular property,” she said. “They were forwarded to the Select Board office.”

But Select Board Chair Frank Gracie III, who had been voted in as chair earlier in the same meeting, stated that he had not seen any messages from the public. 

Owen said that the family’s decision has already been made, and that the sale would have to go forward or they would lose the entire property in a matter of weeks.

“We are at a time critical point right now,” he said. “My sister is very unwell. This was something that we struggled with for years...This is the only way to save the farm.”

The family is currently leasing 10 acres to The Flying Carrot farm, and hopes to conserve that property in the future, Owen said. 

He added that it is “extraordinarily painful” to lose the land. “That’s my childhood, those back acres,” he said.

Agricultural Commission member Fred Dabney stated that the commission has no objection to the sale.

There were no public comments made on the matter during the meeting, and the Select Board voted unanimously to allow the two parcels of land to be sold.