EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 6, 2013

Land could be preserved for $300K

Pelham eyes purchase of 56 acres of farmland

By John Toole

---- — PELHAM — The town is moving to preserve another large parcel of land for the enjoyment of future generations.

The Conservation Commission will hold a hearing next week on the planned $300,000 purchase of 56 acres of farmland at the end of Old County Road.

“We’re going as fast as we can,” Commission Chairman Paul Gagnon said. “The market is heating up.”

The town’s conservation funds, set aside 10 years ago, would pay for the land.

Pelham started with about $3 million set aside in 2003 and Gagnon said about $1 million remains. In all, he estimated, the town has protected about 800 acres through the past decade.

No action would be required at Town Meeting. But selectmen also would hold a hearing on the land deal later, probably this month or next, Gagnon said.

The Planning Board will review the proposal, too, because the plan calls for subdividing about 13 acres, including the farmhouse and barn. The board is expected to take up that issue at a meeting Aug. 19.

Gagnon said the deal involves the old Lareau or Sunny Side Farm, a nearly 70-acre property.

Property trustees Ron Harbour and Jean Bradshaw would be free to develop the remaining 13 acres, he said.

The purchase would add to the town’s conservation land holdings — about 500 acres — in the southwest part of town near the border of Massachusetts.

Gagnon said the conservation panel’s aim is to connect land around Cutter Woods to Gumpas Pond.

“This is a plan we’ve been working on for a long time,” he said.

There are no plans for establishing a park on the land, Gagnon said.

“The possibility has been discussed that potentially it could be a community garden,” he said.

But there are no plans for that now and a community group would have to be found at some point to take such a project on, he said.

Unlike some earlier purchases that protected sensitive wildlife areas or wetlands, Gagnon said the primary value to this purchase is linking parcels previously obtained and protecting the farmland from development.

The land deal follows closely another important acquisition.

Last month, selectmen held a hearing on the $264,000 purchase of about 40 acres of conservation land off Greenmeadow Drive.

Gagnon said that deal was approved by selectmen.

“In Southern New Hampshire, especially along the Interstate 93 corridor, and Pelham is not far from that, land conservation is very important because there is such pressure to build and develop,” said Catherine Corkery, the Sierra Club’s state chapter director.

Corkery pointed to Londonderry and Plaistow as communities that have recently debated land conservation.

She maintains there are ways for towns to allow both development and conservation.

“A community can have everything they want,” she said.

Conservation purchases, such as the one proposed on Old County Road, helps the people of Pelham preserve their community in a way they like it and that reflects their values, she said.

“It is difficult to do,” Corkery said. “I certainly applaud the community for placing a high priority on protecting the landscape.”

Such opportunities are rare, she said.

“They will be able to walk outside and enjoy, not far from home, a natural setting,” Corkery said.

The commission hearing is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 14, at 7 p.m. at Town Hall, 6 Village Green.