EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 30, 2012

81 acres preserved for open space

Mayor: Much of the land to be dedicated to hiking, canoeing, kayaking

By Shawn Regan

---- — HAVERHILL — Eighty-one rural acres along Kingsbury Avenue will be placed into a conservation trust, preventing the land from ever being developed.

Mayor James Fiorentini said the city will eventually turn part of the land into a public recreational area next to Chadwick Pond, where residents will go hiking, canoeing and kayaking.

In exchange for placing the land into the trust, the owners will be receiving tax breaks, the mayor said.

Perley and Janice Bailey, 82 and 77 respectively, have agreed to convey 60 acres where they live at 475 Kingsbury Ave. and another 21 acres across the street near Chadwick Pond to the nonprofit Essex County Greenbelt Association. Ownership of the main piece will transfer immediately, but the 21 acres will not change hands for three years, city officials said.

In return, the Baileys will receive a one-time $50,000 state income tax credit. They also trimmed about $120 off their annual city property tax bill, Fiorentini said.

The mayor said he agreed to support the deal after the Baileys agreed to allow public access to the larger parcel upon their deaths. Two buildings are on that parcel — the Baileys’ home and another home owned by their children, the mayor said. The city intends to eventually build walking trails on the old farmland, he said.

The City Council approved the deal last week and Fiorentini said he has since signed off on it.

“Initially it was only going to include the 60 acres on Kingsbury Avenue, so I was against it,” Fiorentini said. “But when they agreed to include the land near Chadwick Pond and also to allow public access, I agreed to support it.

“Some day Chadwick Pond is going to be a wonderful recreational area for the city, with canoeing and kayaking,’’ he said. “Both sides are beautiful, picturesque properties.”

The land is in the city’s Bradford section.

According to its website, the Essex County Greenbelt is the region’s premier non-profit land trust and works to conserve farmland, wildlife habitat and scenic landscapes in the county. Since 1961, the group has conserved more than 15,000 acres and is responsible for 75 percent of all land in Essex County that has been protected in the last decade.

The council approved the deal in an 8-1 vote, with Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien the lone dissenter. She said she voted no because the proposal was rushed to the council with little notice and that she was not given time to review it. The proposal was taken up and passed at the council’s Dec. 18 meeting as an emergency item.

“The mayor was initially against it, but he changed his mind at the last minute, so it had to be rushed to us,” Daly O’Brien said. “The mayor and the council have a good relationship, but this is an area where there have been problems. Pushing us to vote on these things without giving us time to review them is discourteous and puts us in a bad position if there are problems later. But my colleagues went along with it (the land deal) because they felt it was in the city’s best interest.”

Fiorentini acknowledged the council was not given much time to review the proposal.

“I agree it would have been nice to have given them more time to review it,” the mayor said of the proposal. “But they (the Baileys) needed a decision that night in order to get the tax credit.”