FAQs

We’ve provided answers to common questions regarding the sale of non-core Wellesley College properties.

General

How is the North 40 currently zoned?
The parcel is currently zoned for single-family use.
In addition to the North 40, what other parcels would you consider "non-core"?  Are there development plans in place for those parcels?  How are they zoned?
A good example of another non-core parcel is the Rollins lot which is currently zoned for single family homes and does not have an academic use.  However, any of the other non-core parcels are far less significant in size and scope for potential development. Any non-core parcel development, from the North 40 to smaller parcels, would go through a full town permitting and community process. The College currently considers any land which abuts that lake as part of our core holdings.   This property is bordered by Routes 16 and 135 and by Pond Road.
What is the estimated value of the land?
The town has assessed the land at $25,277,000.  Its value will depend on its use.
How will the proceeds from sale or lease of the property be used by Wellesley College?
Any financial resources derived from its re-use will be used to support campus improvement in alignment with Wellesley College's academic and campus needs. Revenue will support repairs, maintenance and modest expansion of existing buildings in areas such as Pendleton West, Founders/Green, Munger and the Field House. Resources will also serve to maintain the landscape architecture of the core campus. 
Do you have a potential buyer/developer at this time?
The College issued a Request for Proposals in mid-September and bids were due on October 3.  A wide range of bidders for sale or lease of the property have responded to the College's request. As one of the largest nearby neighbors for the North 40 and a member of the community, Wellesley College will make it a priority to identify responsible partners who are sensitive to community needs and concerns.
Why does Wellesley College need/want to sell this land?
This land was originally donated to the College to support our mission; however, its location makes it challenging to use for academic purposes and our space needs are largely met on the core campus.
By selling this property, Wellesley will gain additional financial resources to support our Campus Renewal plan, which includes repair and maintenance efforts as well as modest expansions on existing buildings. The productive re-use of the North 40, as well as other non-core properties, will allow the Trustees to focus our assets in the areas we can best utilize them in support of the College's academic mission.

Process

Should the land be preserved for Wellesley expansion?
Wellesley College is committed to maintaining its current campus footprint and renovating, maintaining or modestly expanding its existing campus buildings to meet current academic needs. Furthermore, the density of development on the core campus is quite low and can easily support any potential future academic development.
After all this time, the push for sale seems to be happening suddenly, why is this?
We actually came to the community quite early in the process – even before the SJC made a decision on whether this land can be used for private development.  And the process for such a sale is long.
The Trustees and leadership of Wellesley College have tried for many years to find appropriate uses for the North 40, as a non-core parcel. The North 40 was originally donated to the college under a restriction that it be used to support the academic mission. Since the original land grant to the College, the College has acquired or been given nearly 180 additional acres of land, most of it wrapping further around the lake and directly across Route 16, a much quieter street, from the main campus.
We both have enough space in our core campus to support academic needs and the location of the parcel makes it difficult to use safely. Given the analysis which showed openness to reconsidering the restriction, Wellesley College pursued this important opportunity to support funding of the Campus Renewal plan.
When will the plans for development/use be public?
The College is exploring potential uses and has had been in close conversations with the town over the course of the summer. The town has submitted a bid for the property to the College. 
How will the community be included during the planning process?
The community can expect any developer to follow the appropriate development approval process, which will include public hearings and community meetings. While Wellesley does not expect to be actively involved with the planning and development process, as the largest nearby neighbor and a member of this community, we expect to identify responsible development partners who are sensitive to community needs and concerns.

Concerns

Community Involvement

Will the town be given the first priority and a discounted price in purchasing the land for community needs?
The town has been actively pursuing the acquisition of the North 40 for municipal purposes.  It is not expected that the Trustees will only sell or lease the property to the highest bidder.  There are many factors to be considered.

Potential Buyers/Uses

Community members, especially the close neighbors, should have a say in what happens to the land. What will be the community's role?
Community members will be able to voice opinions/concerns through any public permitting process once a potential development partner is chosen.
During the town's visioning process, they have invited representatives of the Woodland and Weston Road neighborhoods to participate.  The town has also held many public meetings and public visioning sessions to obtain input from the community.  The College has followed this process and noted the community preferences with interest.
Is the town of Wellesley going to purchase the land?
As indicated, the town has submitted a bid and has provided the community with a look at their proposed financing for the project.  More information about the town's intention may be obtained on the town web site.
Is there a possibility of a land trust on this land so the community can keep the public garden space and preserve the wildlife?
Wellesley College is committed to reviewing all proposals and possibilities for the land with a great respect for the community. At the same time, the trustees have an obligation to best maximize all college assets in a way that supports the colleges academic mission (i.e. by aiding in the financing of the campus renewal plan).  There may be a variety of avenues for maintaining the garden space rented annually from the College.
In our explorations with conservancy organizations, we have learned that this parcel of land is not of particular interest to them.  It is not viewed as particularly interesting from an ecological perspective, is not adjacent to other property owned by a conservancy group, and the value of their purchasing power is much greater in other locations.  In addition, the College learned that because half the property will be conserved under the Town's Natural Resource Protection Development zoning, that zoning renders the land of less interest to these organizations
At one point there were plans for you to use this land for faculty housing, yet you claim the land offers no academic use, how is this so?
Wellesley College has considered different uses on the land including the possibility for faculty housing. However, doing so poses a number of safety and cost concerns. The North 40 parcel is separated from the core campus by heavy infrastructure, making transportation to and from the core campus unsafe and inconvenient. As faculty housing options were considered in the past, the College has ultimately preferred other locations for housing.

Construction Impacts

A similar plan was proposed in the 1980s and fell through; can the college revisit this plan?
The plan proposed in the late 80's was intended for academic related uses, but proved not economically feasible at that time. With the possibility to sell or lease the land to a developer for non-academic related program, the College has an opportunity to maximize this asset in a way that truly supports the academic needs of the campus.
How will construction/development impacts be addressed?
Wellesley College is committed to conducting a process that is respectful of our surrounding community and acknowledges any potential concerns the town and its residents may have. To that end, Wellesley College expects to identify responsible development partners who are sensitive to community needs and concerns.
The area is already densely developed; will the plan be environmentally sustainable?
Town officials and potential developers will work together to understand all impacts of development to the community and environment.
How will the proximity of the water well affect the plans if at all?
Town officials and potential developers will work together to understand all impacts of development to the community and environment.

Preserving the Environment

How will the former town dump and potential environmental issues associated with it be mitigated if there is construction?
Town officials and potential developers will work together to understand all impacts of development to the community and environment.
Will there continue to be open space available to the community?
Wellesley College is dedicated to maintaining access to the walking path and scenery that surround the lake on the core campus, as a resource for both our College and the larger Wellesley community. Current zoning provisions (Natural Resource Protection Development bylaw) for parcels of this size also call for preservation of 50% of the property as open space.
What will become of the walking paths/community garden space?
The community garden space is currently located on Wellesley College property and rented annually to gardeners. Wellesley College will encourage any potential developers to work with community members on a plan for maintaining or relocating community garden space elsewhere in the area if necessary. Meanwhile, on August 6th, we notified the community gardeners that they may continue to garden on site during the 2015 growing season.  A permitting process is expected to extend through that time. The Wellesley Crosstown Trail crosses the North 40 on land not owned by the College.  Wellesley College is also committed to maintaining the walking path surrounding the lake on the core campus for community and college use.
What considerations are being taken with regard to the wetlands?
With the exception of the vernal pool, there are no other documented wetlands on the property.
How large was the landfill?
A total of 23 acres was leased from Wellesley College by the Town of Wellesley for the purposes of a municipal landfill for five years beginning in 1955. Work this summer indicates that the actual landfill is less than 6 acres in size.
What type of environmental assessment are you doing on the part of the North 40 that had been used by the town of Wellesley for a landfill?
Wellesley College is working with respected environmental consultants to have a better understanding of what might exist on the landfill site and how that would impact uses going forward.  In addition, the site was surveyed for any other wetlands or endangered species. This type of review would be conducted by any entity who would consider either active or passive development on a former landfill site.

Traffic Impacts

Has the impact on traffic in an already busy area been considered?
Traffic is always challenging on Weston Road.  Any impact on traffic will depend on the use of the property. You can expect that any potential lessee/purchaser will also be required by the town process to administer traffic impact studies.

Miscellaneous

I have read that this property was donated to Wellesley College in 1873 by Henry Fowle Durant, co-founder of the college, with the stipulation that the land be used as “farm lands, pasture, woodlots, mowing fields, as well as pleasure grounds and cultivated lands.”  Is this true?
No, Mr. Durant instructed the College in the Indenture that “(t)he farm lands, pasture, woodlots, mowing fields as well as the pleasure grounds, and cultivated lands may be used for the convenience and benefit of the College and such changes and improvements in the cultivation may be made and such new buildings may be erected thereon for the purposes of the College as the trustees may think best…” His intent was for the land to be used to further the College’s mission.
 
I'm very wary of the College altering the restrictions placed on assets in a donation or a bequest. Doesn't this send the wrong message to potential donors who may also want to file restrictions?
It certainly has not been the College’s practice to alter or depart from the spirit and the letter of restrictions imposed by donors, and we do not believe we are doing so now. Within the context of the overall mission, Mr. Durant’s original gift of the campus property via an indenture for which the College paid $50,000 granted a measure of discretion to the Trustees to use and improve the property for the benefit of the College, “as the trustees may think best.” For a number of reasons, the North 40 has remained vacant for over 140 years and is in fact not presently serving the intent of Mr. Durant’s gift. Given the College's subsequent acquisition or receipt of nearly 180 additional acres since the time of Mr. Durant's gift, the College views those lands as more suitable for any potential future needs. The Trustees have determined that the best way for this property to serve the intention of the grant would be to sell the North 40 and apply the proceeds to further the educational mission of the school. Both the Attorney General and the Supreme Judicial Court have agreed with the Trustees’ determination.
The Town of Wellesley also has a FAQ list about the North 40.

Related

North 40 News

October 16, 2014: College and Town issue joint statement updating North 40 process.

 

The Town of Wellesley has a  North 40 information page; you can sign up to receive updates.