The Representative Town Meeting has decided that a gift of a little more than one-quarter acre of land was no gift at all.

The RTM this week turned down the proposed donation of property on the corner of Vermont Avenue and Kings Highway from the developer of the new Kings Crossing shopping center next door, as many members cited concerns about the site's possible contamination. The vote was 43 against accepting the property, with none in favor and three abstentions.

"The intent at the beginning of this thing was good," said Edward Bateson, R-3, but it wasn't worth it to the town to conduct further testing, as was recommended by Conservation Director Thomas Steinke. The owner, he said, "doesn't want to test it because if we say no, someone is liable for the cleanup. Sometimes sleeping dogs are best left sleeping."

During public hearings for the Whole Foods Market, which anchors the shopping center, owner HH East Parcel LLC offered to deed the residentially zoned portion of the property to the town. The Town Plan and Zoning Commission recommended the town accept the land as open space as a condition of approval.

The land was once a slice of the property where Handy & Harman, a metals-processing factory, once stood.

"We pretty much know it's contaminated," said Nick Mirabile, R-9. "The entire lot was contaminated."

He also said the parcel's steep, rocky terrain also would make it a liability for the town. "I don't see any reason why we would take this on. It's something we should pass on. It's going to be open space regardless of whether we own it or not."

There was a failed attempt to postpone the vote by Josh Garskoff, D-5, who said Steinke indicated the property could be used by the town. While Steinke was cautious, Garskoff said, "he was pretty clear he would recommend taking the land."

He said postponement would allow RTM members to find out how much additional testing would cost, and whether there is money in the Conservation Department's budget to cover that.

Peter Ambrose, R-2, said he was not in favor of delaying the vote, which he said had been on five previous RTM agendas, although the body never voted on it.