KINGSTON – The city is taking one step closer to exercising its right of first refusal for virgin peatland land withdrawn from production.
The community preservation committee unanimously supports the hiring of an appraiser for the acquisition of timber and ancient bogs on Winthrop Street, as supporters of the project seek additional funding to cover the $ 800,000 that a developer plans to pay.
His work is not yet finished. The CPC will seek the assistance of the city administrator to assist in the assessment process. The city attorney will also work with the assessor to ensure all requirements are covered. New conservation officer Matt Penella has offered to help with the assessment process.
With the Conservation Commission scheduled to meet on April 14, the CPC also scheduled a meeting that evening to discuss the project.
No public comments were accepted at the April 1 meeting, when the vote was 8-0 to approve the hiring of an assessor. Committee members also decided not to hold another public hearing specifically for the “Blackwater Memorial Forest” project, as it is not necessary.
Before the vote, the chairman of the community preservation committee, Chris Hofmann, gave all of its members the opportunity to comment on the merits of the request, especially if it was complete and qualified for funding under the law. on the preservation of the community.
Some members raised concerns to be addressed, including the potential for funding through grants and other possibilities to offset costs. Usually there was support for the project, but not everyone was convinced. One concern is that CAP funding for open spaces may be exhausted. Community Preservation Act funds are to be used for open space, historic preservation, and affordable housing.
CPC member Don Ducharme said he was concerned that the project would cancel funding for future conservation projects and that he was troubled that the main applicant was an unknown core group. He said he is also concerned that the board did not vote on the right of first refusal.
“Going to us before the right of first refusal, I think that’s a step in the wrong direction,” he said.
He also asked why the Conservation Commission had not been involved in the process, as it would be responsible for the land, and suggested that housing options with affordable housing be considered with the participation of the Affordable Housing Trust. He said he would not vote to approve it.
CPC member Dot MacFarlane said the Conservation Commission, of which she is a member, cannot consider a land conservation application without an assessment, based on its regulations, but she fears it may there is no mention of possible hazardous materials on the site and no delineation of wetlands.
The Selectmen Board of Directors signed on as a co-applicant, as did the Jones River Watershed Association, led by Executive Director Pine duBois. She said she first learned of the plans for the property in the second week of February and stepped in to help apply for funding to save it.
The Local Acquisitions for Natural Diversity (LAND) grant program, administered by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, is a potential source of funding with a grant of up to $ 400,000, or half the cost of the deal. buying and selling, which she pursues.
The deadline to submit an application is July 14. One of the conditions is that the general public must have reasonable access to the land. An owner offered to use his property to provide access to the 46 acres. The grant reimburses towns and villages for the acquisition of land for conservation purposes.
“We will not just go after the EEA LAND fund, we will be looking for other opportunities as we see them develop,” said duBois. “So far we’ve just tried to fix this problem.”
Voters in the city assembly would have to approve funding for the grant and the city would be reimbursed by the state, she said. While agreeing to provide the information requested by CPC President Hofmann, she has potential mandate wording for a Town Meeting article with the grant as a source of funding, but advised her to contact the town lawyer.
DuBois said she is committed to raising half of the funds, and with the federal government putting more money into open space projects, she will seek other grants as well. Homeowners are waiting for now, but are committed to the cause and ready to launch a Go Fund Me campaign.
Hofmann said some of their concerns may be addressed as part of the approval process when voting on the CPC’s funding request, but the cost and timing of the grant process continues to be of concern, even with what seems to be overwhelming community support for the project.
Follow the Kingston Reporter on Facebook and Kathryn Gallerani on Twitter @kgallreporter.