WEST NEWBURY – A treasured spot for buying gardening and landscaping plants and supplies for more than half a century will soon become the town’s latest housing development.
Judy and Dave Marshall, owners of Knapp’s Greenhouses on Main Street, announced they are working with West Newbury developer John Sarkis to convert the 19-acre property at the west end of town into a maximum of four housing lots. The greenhouses and infrastructure are old and unusable, the owners stated, noting that leasing the property was not viable.
The Marshalls purchased Knapp the Florist from Fred and Hazel Knapp on Sept. 15, 1965. The family-run business morphed into Knapps Greenhouses in 1995.
When Knapp’s closed its doors in 2018, the Flynn family – owners of Nunan Florist & Greenhouses in Georgetown – leased the property from the Marshalls.
But with apparently very little notice, Nunan at Knapp’s Greenhouses shut down in July. The closure was “the results of a business decision driven by the labor shortages experienced by many businesses in Massachusetts during the past year and a half,” a statement from the Flynn family explained.
It was a difficult decision but allowed Nunan to move key personnel back to its main facility in Georgetown to help with the current labor shortage, the memo stated.
The abrupt closing left local gardeners scrambling in the peak of summer to find a comparable alternative for their planting needs. At the time, many wondered what would be next for their favorite nursery and wanted to preserve what they felt was a prime example of West Newbury’s rural charm.
In a Facebook posting following the sudden closure, the Marshalls indicated they would take some time to process the unanticipated development, taking into account not only their needs but also the needs of their neighbors and the community.
Former Planning Board member Chris Wile, who estimated an ambitious developer could create as many as 30 housing units on the land if a road were built, urged the town to take a proactive approach with the Marshalls to preserve the land.
Under open space residential development protocols, developers are granted density bonuses as a trade-off for things such as preserving open space or creating affordable housing. The Knapp property is highly ranked on the town’s open space priority parcel list.
“We are very grateful for our 57 years in West Newbury and the opportunity to work beside our children and grandchildren,” Judy Marshall said when she reached for comment over the weekend.
“One of the best parts of our years at Knapp’s were the employees, who truly became part of our family,” she added. “We feel the same way about our customers who were, and continue to be, incredibly supportive. We are blessed to have been a part of something so special. ”
John Dodge, chair of West Newbury’s Open Space Committee, expressed his concerns, ending on a positive note about the pending development.
“We are always disappointed when a large parcel in West Newbury is earmarked for development, however even with that, there are still opportunities for trails and to conserve much of the acreage,” he said.
Anyone interested in being notified as the plans progress can contact [email protected] by email.