By Max Bowenfirstname.lastname@example.org
A recent review of a survey on the new Open Space plan included questions on what is being done to keep natural sites safe from development.
The forum, held in a virtual format on Jan. 27, included an in-depth review of the survey, which almost 950 residents responded to. Of the 14 questions in the survey, preservation of natural habitats, most popular parks, and the Community Preservation Act (CPA) were among the subjects.
Conservation Administrator Shannon Palmer said that the goals of the new Open Space Plan are broad-based and connected to issues raised by residents.
“What we accomplish is tied to what funding is available and town support,” said Palmer, also an Open Space Committee member.
Parks and Recreation Director Steve Carvalho reviewed questions related to the parks and playgrounds. He said that the consensus is that the town wants to see updated equipment and better handicapped accessibility.
“You gave the committee quite a lot to think about as we move forward to the next phase of the plan,” he said.
On the subject of fields, Carvalho said that there has been a shortage since 2014 and the problem is far worse now. In addition to there not being enough fields, the ones in town are used too often, which causes damage to accumulate. Justin Pare, a member of Town Council, said that structure must be considered, as certain sports can’t be played on just any kind of field.
Of the questions raised following the presentation, one was on what the town is doing to protect natural habitats from being destroyed for housing or large buildings. One resident said the development going on “seems unfettered.” Palmer said that projects like those need to complete a multi-step process that includes applying for permits and hearings the Planning Board and Conservation Commission, among others.
“The goal is to balance development with preservation, even more so moving forward,” said Palmer. “The feedback is it’s not enough and we need to do more.”
Palmer added that protecting these sites takes money, which isn’t always available. She said that if the town were to adopt the CPA, this would provide a new source of funding. CPAs are paid for through a minimal tax increase—usually 1-3 percent—and the money raised can be used by the town to purchase available parcels. She added that the CPA has been discussed for several years, and that now may be the time to bring it before the town.
“Were always hoping we can do better protecting natural resources,” Palmer said.
The new Open Space Plan is a revamped version of one passed in 2013. Palmer cited a number of goals that the plan had reached, including a Stomwater Management Plan, a historical survey of the town, two fields at the Lestage Property, and making several sites ADA-compliant. The plan will go before the Town Council very soon.