Response to David Saad Letter in June 2016 Issue
To the Editor: In his recent letter to the editor (Seekonk Concerned Citizens Controlling Our Land, June 2016) David Saad of Seekonk Concerned Citizens said, “Protecting our land is a great idea.” We at the Seekonk Land Conservation Trust couldn’t agree more. That’s why we are so pleased to support the Town of Seekonk’s planned purchase of the 20-acre Young Farm on Elm and Chestnut Streets. Saad’s other assertions about this project, namely that buying the property “would place it on the shelf and most likely out of our control forever” and that the money might be better spent on “our schools, safety, or roads,” demonstrate a lack of familiarity with how the Community Preservation Act works. By purchasing this parcel of land, the Town will ensure that it specifically does maintain control of the property. Under town ownership, the future uses will be determined through locally run public hearings, and could include hiking, birdwatching, community farming, and other low-impact recreational uses by town residents. In addition, the property provides habitat for wildlife, protects local ground water resources, and knits together a roughly 50-acre greenbelt of protected open space. By contrast, a private developer would most likely prohibit any public use of the property, and could build as many as 8 houses there. When the Community Preservation Act (CPA) was adopted by Seekonk voters in April 2009, they authorized the Town to implement a small property tax surcharge. The cumulative total from this fund is matched by state funds at 30% each year. The funds provided by the CPA can only be spent on land conservation, fair housing, historical preservation, and recreation and not on schools, safety, or roads. The protection of desirable and highly developable open space properties like the Young Farm is exactly what the Act was intended to support. This purchase is a good deal for the Town. The purchase price of $300,000 represents a 25 percent discount from the appraised value of $400,000. The farm was thoroughly vetted through the appraisal process, including a detailed study of the site’s wetlands and other constraints, and the delineation of the possible eight building sites. That’s why the purchase was overwhelmingly approved by Town Meeting members at their spring meeting. The Seekonk Community Preservation Committee has amassed an impressive record of accomplishments since it was created in 2009, protecting nearly 215 acres through five separate purchases, and leveraging more than $1 million in state matching and agricultural preservation funds. Through their continued efforts, the Town is well positioned to protect its rural character, guide growth into appropriate areas, and provide a network of protected wildlife habitat and open lands for future generations. Sincerely, Thompson Webb President, Seekonk Land Conservation Trust, Inc.