SHREWSBURY, MA-A special town meeting will be held next week to decide the fate of the Allen Farm, a 60-acre parcel located between Routes 9 and 20. The Allen family, who owns the farm, has an offer to buy the parcel for $6 million but because the site has an agricultural designation, the town has first rights of refusal on the property. Should the town exercise its option, it would be required to pay the same purchase price that the family was offered.

AvalonBay Communities wants to develop a 300-unit residential complex on the site. According to Michael Hale, assistant town manager, AvalonBay would build the project with a comprehensive permit, which, under the state’s affordable hosing law, would enable them to bypass local zoning laws if the project has at least 25% affordable housing and the town does not have 10% affordable housing.

But Hale emphasizes that while town officials would like to see the town acquire the property, it does not want to keep affordable housing projects out. “AvalonBay can build an affordable housing project in another site,” he tells “We want to use the site for its intended use, which is commercial/industrial.” Hale points out that the site is “one of the best commercial/industrial sites left in town.” It is currently zoned for industrial use but if the town does purchase it, Hale says it intends to change the zoning to office/research use. “It’s sandwiched between two highways,” he notes. “It’s best suited for that type of use.”

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