Lenox Community Preservation Committee
August 31, 2015
Members in Attendance: Frederick Keator (Chair), Gene Chague (At Large), Tom Delasco (Planning), Channing Gibson (Selectmen), Al Harper (At Large), Catherine May (Housing Authority), Tony Patella (Community Center), Joe Strauch (Conservation), Olga Weiss (Historical Society)
Members Absent: None
Staff in Attendance: Christopher Ketchen (Town Manager)
Mr. Keator called the meeting to order at 7:03PM.
After a brief discussion, Ms. Weiss moved, Mr. Strauch seconded, and the Committee voted 6-0 to approve the Minutes of the August 12, 2015 meeting (Harper, May and Patella abstained).
Mr. Harper notified the Committee that he would recuse himself from discussion of the Undermountain Farm agenda item. However, his attendance at this meeting was recorded.
At 7:05PM, the public hearing commenced on an application from the Board of Selectmen for $250,000 to purchase 63 acres and 2 easements at Undermountain Farm. Mr. Keator invited public comment on the application.
Eric Federer, chair of the Environmental Committee, stated that his committee voted to support the application.
Carolyn Barry asked a question regarding the assessed value of the property. The Town Manager, representing the applicant, stated that the land was not assessed by the Board of Assessors at full cash value due to its designation under Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 61A – thus lowering the taxes on the 63 acres to be acquired by the Town to less than $1,000. However, he recalled that the most recent appraisal of the property obtained by the Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) was $390,000.
Patti Spector asked for a more complete explanation of Chapter 61A. The Town Manager stated that Chapter 61A is a state statute and program that allows landowners to seek designation of their property as agricultural land and, thus, voluntarily limit the use of their property to agricultural uses. Municipal taxation of the property is limited as a consequence.
Thomas Romeo, speaking as a citizen and identifying himself as a member of the Lenox Land Trust, spoke in favor of the proposed application. He stated the ecological, quality of life and recreational merits of the proposal. He further described the proximity of the proposed path easements to Kennedy Park and the watershed land. He also addressed the 10 acres of unrestricted land surrounding Undermountain Farm, stating that the Town maintains a right of first refusal on purchase of that property in addition to various zoning limitations. In summation of this point, he stated his belief that substantial development of said 10 acre parcel is unlikely.
Ken Kelly spoke in favor of the application and expressed his support for preservation of the property as part of the Town’s recently approved Open Space and Recreation Plan.
Molly Elliot spoke in favor of the application and expressed her belief that the proposal is in keeping with the Community Preservation Committee’s charge for preserving open space.
The public hearing was closed at 7:20PM.
Members Gibson, Chague, May, Strauch, Delasco, Patella, and Weiss each spoke in support of the application. Mr. Patella and Ms. Weiss further expressed a need to maintain effort on trails development once the purchase of the property is finalized. Mr. Keator agreed with the sentiments of many committee members and stated his view that the Town must, consider the full content and cost of the Opens Space and Recreation Plan as well as the cost of maintaining existing Town assets. He further expressed a concern that the current timeline has placed pressure on the Town that has forestalled further improvements to the proposal.
Mr. Keator called for a vote on the application. The application was approved 7-1 (Keator opposed).
Ms. May moved, Mr. Patella seconded, and the Committee voted unanimously to adjourn.
The meeting adjourned at 7:32PM.