After years of back-and-forth negotiations with the University, the town of Weston, Mass. announced recently that it plans to obtain by eminent domain a portion of Harvard-owned land in the Case Estates property.
According to the MetroWest Daily News, the town has offered the University $360,000 for the 1.6 acre parcel of land that it seeks to acquire.
However, the University has not reached an agreement with Weston regarding the value of the land.
University spokesperson Kevin Galvin wrote in an email to The Crimson that University and town officials have long discussed using a small portion of the Case Estates property for municipal parking, but that the fair market value of the land parcel has yet to be determined.
Under eminent domain laws, any body of government can acquire private property for public use as long as it provides prñoper compensation for the land.
According to the Metrowest article, Michael Harrity, a member of Weston’s Board of Selectman, said that the town reached the $360,000 amount by subtracting $540,000, the cost of making the land a legal lot with a private road, from the total appraised value of the land, $900,000.
Harrity said that Harvard has two years to appeal the town’s evaluation of the land, which it plans to use for additional parking space for the neighboring Case Campus, an area that includes the Weston Library, Community Center, and the Country, Woodland, and Field Schools, according to the article.
The Case Estates, a botanical garden that once housed nurseries for Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, has been at the center of negotiations between the University and Weston since 1985, when, according to the Weston government website, Harvard sold 35.65 acres of the land to the town.
When Harvard announced plans to sell the remaining 62.5 acres of the Estates in 2006, the town officials held a special town meeting in which they voted to spend $22.5 million to purchase the land for open space, municipal purposes, and residential use, according to the MetroWest article. Subsequent soil testing conducted by Weston led town officials to reevaluate the value of the land, protracting negotiations between the town and the University.
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