Conserve North 40: a land without a price tag

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court allowed Wellesley College to lift the selling restrictions created by its founder, Henry Durant, on North 40 in May. North 40 is a triangular 46-acre parcel of land that Wellesley plans to sell together with Rollins Lot to raise much-needed funding for academic initiatives such as Campus Renewal. However, residents from the town of Wellesley strongly oppose the College selling the land to a private developer. The are concerned that such a sale will hurt the surrounding envrionment and residential community.

The opponents of the sale have suggested that the College sell North 40 to a conservancy instead of a developer. This alternative would preserve the open land, which would continue to benefit the Town of Wellesley. At the same time, the College would still make a profit.

Unfortunately, selling North 40 to a conversancy is a longer and much more costly process. The College would also gain considerably lower profits than if it sold to a developer. Despite these drawbacks, the College should still uphold its responsibility as a neighbor to the town by choosing help preserve North 40.

Nevertheless, town residents recognize the College’s right to decide on the fate of North 40. The administration insists that Durant wanted the College to use the land to provide for women’s higher education. Except, Wellesley College cannot safely use North 40 for academic purposes. The College can only sell the land, but the question still remains: Sell to whom?

Selling the area to the highest bidder is inethical considering the negative consequences such a sale has on the Town of Wellesley. Wellesley College should prioritze long-run conservation over immediate financial relief. Taking the time to research other longer-term sources of revenue will benefit the overall good.

We have thus far allowed Wellesley residents to use the land for community gardens and recreational activities. This solidarity does not prove that our good deed is done, especially as we continue to share the same environment with the town. While a $25 million profit is attractive for the sake of funding Campus Renewal, a shopping mall or other private development will disrupt the town, College and surrounding communities. Members of the College community also treasure the trees, wildlife and hush of wilderness that  around us. A private development of North 40 would bring more traffic and an encroachment of concrete, harming the natural environment.

The College’s pressing need for funding results from a significant lack of forward thinking and planning. The administration currently claims to have financial responsibility to sell to the highest bidder after neglecting financial responsibility to maintain campus buildings for decades. We need to address the budget problems that we have ourselves created without harming the Town of Wellesley. Overarching costs, accrued from increasing the number of adminstrative appointments, have driven up tuition fees and added financial stress. Wellesley College can save money by  reasonably reducing the pool of appointment and reallocating the money to Campus renewal.

North 40 is a bustling laboratory of wildlife, community gardens and natural resources. Selling this land to a private developer may be the easiest and most profitable reuse, but The Wellesley News opposes this solution. We believe it is in our best interest — not our monetary interest, but our values — to conserve the open land.

1 Comment

  • Michael Tobin says:

    As a Wellesley town resident and neighbor to the Rollins Lot (which I learned at the public town hall meeting is in negotiation with a developer for final sale after trustee approval), I agree with your sentiments about the value of the North 40 to the College in the long term. While the administration says, as you note above, that the North 40 is “inaccessible” and cannot be safely used for academic purposes, the College encourages students to cross-register for classes “downtown at MIT” as well as at “neighboring” Babson and Olin Colleges. See http://www.wellesley.edu/academics/theacademicprogram/otherschools

    And as one alum suggested to me, if Hillary does become president, the North 40 would make a great location for a presidential library!

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