I’ve broken into the Halloween candy and I’m now ready to tackle part 3 of Town Meeting, where we discover that the real biological weapons aren’t going to be the diseases studied at the New England Regional Biosafety Lab — no, they’re roaming the woods of Pell Farm, encouraging the growth of illegal aliens and spreading disease hither and yon.
9:45 p.m. Article 24 is the purchase of the Pell Tree Farm for $2.175 million. The property is near the Upton line, at 67 George Hill Road, 11 Soap Hill Road and 8 Soap Hill Road and currently owned by Roger and Luping Pell, who wish to sell the property to the town and retain the right to farm Christmas trees on the land over the next decade. Assessed value of the property is $4 million, and it’s estimated that about 120 residential homes, with 1-acre zoning, could fit on the land.
9:51 p.m. Chris LaPointe of the Trust for Public Land explains the financing: $1.6 million from CPA funds, $500,000 from the state land grant funds, $75,000 from the sale of 13 acres (all of which would be used for agricultural purposes).
9:58 p.m. State Rep. George Peterson offers an amendment: he wants to stipulate that hunting is a “passive recreation use” for the land.
And the crowd erupts!
Peterson claims that very little of the town’s conservation properties allow hunting and “as we buy out more and more land… the sportsmen and women of the Commonwealth have less and less area to hunt lawfully.”
While most of me is raging to my neighbors that my idea of passive recreation does NOT involve someone potentially shooting me, a tiny little part of me, the part that absolutely loves political maneuvering, is totally crushing on the state rep for making such a ballsy move. I mentally take out a hunting bow and hold her at bay, reminding her of the wintery morning when a hunter screamed at me for wearing a brown leather jacket in the driveway of my farmhouse apartment building, while getting in my car during hunting season, because he came thisclose to mistaking me for a deer.
10:05 p.m. A speaker wonders how the Pell Farm could possibly be used for non-hunting passive recreation during hunting season if the town is going to allow hunting. Wouldn’t we be opening people up to harm, not to mention the town up to lawsuits?
10:08 p.m. Thought: wouldn’t hunting be more of a passive-aggressive use of the land?
10:10 p.m. There’s a question about whether you can even use CPA or the state funds for a purchase that will allow hunting.
10:14 p.m. 21-0 Patriots. Did Tom Brady make some kind of miraculous reappearance on the field? I bet my husband’s happy that he went home with one of the neighbors.
10:15 p.m. LaPointe says, after a telephone consult, that there is nothing in the statute, they believe, that would jeopardize funding if hunting is allowed. Most communities, he notes, address this in the management plan portion of the land acquisition.
Peterson, however, says that’s exactly what he doesn’t want to do — he’s making an end run around the Conservation Commission, which he believes isn’t going to want hunting there.
10:20 p.m. I fall in love again, this time with an older woman in the back of the auditorium who has difficulty with her microphone. On her street, which abuts an area with hunting, “We’ve had some very harrowing experiences with hunting,” she says. “I think it’s a shame that we would allow hunting on conservation land. That’s for people to enjoy without being fearful… just imagine that wonderful Pell property has Christmas trees. Lots of Christmas trees. Imagine children going to see the Christmas trees and un the meantime, somebody has a rifle and is running around after whatever it is they want to kill.”
10:30 p.m. A hunting proponent talks about how hunting deer is a good way to keep the deer population down because deer harbor deer ticks, which have Lyme disease, and deer eat low-lying shrubbery, which harbor small furry creatures and song birds and could encourage alien species to grow in the place of native species. At this point, my notebook reads DEER ARE THE REAL TERRORISTS.
10:35 p.m. Vote on Peterson’s amendment, and it passes. Hunting rules!
10:36 p.m. Oh wait, we still have to debate the actual farm purchase.
10:37 p.m. Selectmen Peter Adams announces that he was the dissenting vote among selectmen on the purchase of the land. He believes the town should acquire it, but it shouldn’t be used for conservation.
“We’re going to need land when it’s time to build things,” he explained.
Adams suggested that the town could sell frontage lots and added the property could be used for uses such as soccer fields and affordable housing.
“Affordable housing, I heard the groans, it’s not welfare,” he said. (I’ll agree with him there — most people confuse it with public housing projects. Towns that limit affordable housing are more likely to end up with the Avalon Bays of the world sweeping in under Chapter 40B.)
10:40 p.m. I love this one. There’s a suggestion that the town look at the land for renewable energy use, such as windmills. My added suggestion: we could put them on top of the Christmas trees instead of stars! (Please note: I love the windmill idea, it just was kind of out of the blue at this point)
10:53 p.m. It’s suggested that we don’t have to do this now, because the agreement runs out in February, the property is still covered under Chapter 61A, and if the Pells decide to sell, the town still has right of first refusal. Are you kidding me? There’s no Town Meeting between now and February, plus the town would have to match whatever is offered by a developer. Do you want to spend a little over $2 million now with the funding in place, or do you want to be scrambling for $4 million or even more a few years from now under a tight schedule (I’m thinking the deadline on a 61A decision is 120 days, but don’t hold me to it).
10:54 p.m. And we’ve approved the purchase of the Pell Farm! Applause! And a bunch of people get up to leave.