Auburn develops land preservation process

Printer-friendly versionSend by email

Auburn’s Board of Selectmen last month approved a policy to clarify the process under state law to give preferential tax treatment to property owners who maintain land as open space.
The policy provides clear direction for the town about the process that all municipalities must follow for chapters 61, 61A and 61B, according to Town Manager Julie Jacobson. Part of the policy’s function is to ensure that residents, boards and commissions are aware of notification requirements that land has become available under the state law.
The state laws designate the process under which a municipality can potentially purchase that property should the owner seek to sell it for non-agricultural purposes.
“We wanted to adopt our own internal policy that not only restates Massachusetts General Law, but adds additional outreach components,” Jacobson said.
In 2014, the town was notified of a 50-acre property becoming available and had to move quickly on tight deadlines in an unfamiliar process to purchase the property.
After going through the process, Jacobson saw the need to develop Auburn’s own policy in line with state regulations to better facilitate the process in the future. A comprehensive checklist was developed as a part of the policy.
The town also conducted a survey of all the Chapter 61 lands in the community, to have an up-to-date inventory.
“We looked at several other policies that were developed in other communities and determined which components best fit Auburn’s needs,” Jacobson said.
Jacobson, a member of the MMA Board of Directors, has also been involved in state-level efforts to clarify the state laws and extend the deadlines in Chapter 61, 61A and 61B, something that would benefit all municipalities.
“Communities don’t know how tight the deadline requirements are until they are faced with a possible purchase,” Jacobson said. “It takes longer for towns to get this to a town meeting for vote, and they may need to call a special town meeting. There is very little time to do due diligence and bring it before the taxpayers.”