9:46-10:54 p.m. Hunting down terrorist deer

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.

We’ve already been on the Road to Nowhere and ground a couple axes.

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.

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13 thoughts on “9:46-10:54 p.m. Hunting down terrorist deer

  1. Even though Peterson’s amendment may have provided high drama last night, it’s appalling to me and Scott that an elected representative would intentionally and admittedly subvert the normal channels by which something such as hunting on conservation land would need approval… and instead take advantage of relatively low turnout at town meeting and the predictable impatience of folks in attendance to sneak through a clause that permits an activity that is the very opposite of “conservation.” It’s a classic case of favoring the few (hunters) over the many (non-hunters), and voters should think long and hard about whose interests Peterson serves and the manner in which he does so!

  2. Melissa, I agree wholeheartedly that he manipulated the town legislative process (he knows this game better than every single person there combined), but I would caution you in saying that hunting is not part of conservation. In fact, I’d actually argue that its an important and natural part of conservation when done lawfully. The impact of unchecked deer populations is well documented (i.e. nasty coyotes). And besides, how do you think Mr. Audubon got all those pretty pictures of birds in all of his books…he blasted them right out of the sky…then drew pictures of them!

    Peterson said it himself, “hunting is a passive activity.” Since the warrant clearly specified passive activity, it didn’t need to be amended AT ALL. He just had an axe to grind with Conservation Committee…the rightful deciders of the conservation rules, regulations and management plans.

  3. Since I admit I’m not an expert on hunting per se, I’m curious as to how hunting (carried out by a person with a lethal weapon and an intention to kill something) could possibly be classified as a “passive” activity, as would, say, hiking or bird-watching………….?

  4. I’m not an expert either, and that’s exactly why this Town Meeting debate should not have happened. The Conservation Committee is the expert, and they have the right to determine what impacts the ecosytem in a non-passive way. That is the most important point in regards to what happened with Rep Peterson’s Amendment. This turned into a referendum about the merits of hunting, just as it is now on this blog, and that shouldn’t be the case.

    Everytime you walk into the woods you leave a non-passive impact on the ecosystem in some way. Its a question of how significant an impact (many would argue that mountain biking leaves a far greater impact than hunting) and whether you leave a non-sustainable imprint on the land. And when you consider the overall impact of regulated killing/hunting/removal of deer and other animals caused by hunters, the impact is sustainable. Also, hunters traditionally are exceptionally good environmentalists (they don’t trash the place) because its obviously in their self-interst to preserve the integrity of land.

  5. Isn’t it interesting that the only conservation land in town where hunting is prohibited is on North St. Hmmm…Rep. Peterson’s neighborhood.

    I do agree with Michael that this could’ve been brought forth at a better time, researched and presented at town meeting. Also, there was a comment that passive recreation includes hunting so did we really need to specify it? Should we have also specified hiking, bird watching etc? Without getting into a hunting debate, I feel that encouraging passive recreation, showing a powerpoint with children skipping along a wooded trail and sunlight filtering through trees does not seem so pleasant when imagined along with a hunter and an implement intended to kill things lurking nearby.

    As for the woman in the back row who had no use for a microphone since we ‘could all hear her just fine’…you go, grrrl!

  6. As for Mr. Peterson’s comments last night, he and like everyone else at town meeting has the right to voice their opinion(s) towards the ARTICLES and or make amendments at town meeting.
    To say whether or not he is an expert at the process and he used the lack of attendance to his point, we always could have voted down the amendment, and just voted on the purchase. Personally we should be thankful that we have the ability to hunt fish in this small town called Brookline, oh sorry.. ahemm- “Grafton”.
    ConCom here in Grafton has done the worst possible job in trying to involve the public with its objectives, we do need the storm water by-law, but why does ConCom feel they need to re-write and be stricter then what the EPA set as guidelines? They did this before with the wetland protection by-law several years ago when ConCom committee passed measures that became more restrictive then what was called for. I would like to know how much they spent in Town Counsel and consultant fees perhaps they should take lessons from the School Building Committee and learn how to involve the public, perhaps listen to the public and not go on tangents and make the whole town watch 30 minutes slide show. Just goes to show, the “ConCom’s dog just don’t hunt”

  7. Melissa is right, Mr. Peterson has no right to try circumvent the process. In the end, his amendment didn’t matter, but he didn’t know that at the time. If you want to hunt, go to the back woods of Maine, not a small property that people are happily picking out Christmas trees and hiking on. And why did the Moderator let that go on and on without the definition of the phrase “passive recreation” not spelled out by the Conservation Agent who was sitting right there. That would have saved us an hour and I would have been home in bed before midnight.

  8. Giggles and Melissa,
    Not to beat a dead horse or a deer for that matter, Mr. Peterson and everyone who is a town resident has a right to do as they please at Town Meeting when it comes to Articles. That is the democratic process of this town.
    People who have lived in this town for a long time have experienced when a few on a committee have done in the past to make stricter by-laws than what is necessary. Not to say that ConCom would have restricted the “passive recreation” on the Pell land, but again to my point, they have gone way too far in the past and that is why items like what Mr. Peterson and other town residents bring this up at Town Meeting.
    Our ConCom agent does a good job with what she has to work with. And one more thing and I promise not to should like I am preaching because I am looking directly at GreaterGrafton when I am typing this, Our CPC consultant Mr. Christopher LaPoint did bring the “point” (sorry for the pun) of passive recreation.

  9. Clemente,
    As a relatively new resident (7 yrs), I’m curious of specific examples when “a few on a committee” have made “stricter by-laws than what is necessary”. I’m not saying there aren’t, just curious.

  10. Michael,
    Don’t consider yourself new, I moved to the states the same time you did. Sorry about saying a few on a committe have passed a by-law I should say the Town had adopted what the few on the committee have presented, as I am sure you already know it’s how By-Laws are passed.
    One that I know for sure and i make reference too is the Wet Land protection by-law passed some many moons ago. Perhaps GreaterGrafton could shed some light on this? I am sure she could be more objective than I. As you can tell I am now becoming more bias towards any new by-law needing to be passed. Now that i think of it, did the DPW try to pass a no parking by-law that I think already exists?
    All this typing and reading on this blog has made me parched Yikes! it’s time for muchas cervezas frías y el fútbol.

  11. Clemente…I’m going to respond to you on this thread versus the natalie one.

    Exactly as you said, the Town approved those by-laws that you allude to after a committee put them forth to the public at TM. That is exactly how effective municipal legislation should work in my opinion (and now that I think about it that is exactly what Christ LeMay was saying in his smackdown earlier in the night). This process makes it irrelevant whether it’s a small committee or a large committee, a bad committee or a good committee. The problem here is that nobody – including the Conservation Committee – had any legitimate chance to do the research to determine if hunting was viable (Chris LaPoints’ telephone call was slightly re-assuring with regards to the ½ mill of funding…but was not sufficient for the entirety of a 2+ mil purchase). In hindsight, it seems pretty obvious that the ConCom should have been prepared before hand. Maybe it’s the role of the Moderator to step in and explain that an Amendment like this is circumventing the process? I’m guessing Peterson could have asked the question directly to ConCom prior to TM. That all said, and apparently in contrast to the majority of TM members, the ConCom should have the right to clearly evaluate the merits of hunting by talking to the neighbors, talking to interested hunters, walking the property, and really vetting out the notion of hunting’s impact. If the entire neighborhood starts hollering and the Pell family says they aren’t comfortable with hunting while they harvest the trees for 10 years…well, then the ConCom should have the opportunity to exclude hunting. Especially because this includision could jeopardize the whole purchase. But now, we are effectively locked in because of an Amendment that in reality was a referendum on whether or not hunting was good for humanity.

  12. As its been noted, the state rep — in fact anyone — has the right to amend anything at TM. The only difference here is this is someone with a bit more legislative experience than most (and, as I noted, I admired the technique, if not the intent. It was almost as sweet a move as the stealth run that brought power plants into Bellingham).

    I’m still getting to the storm water drama — I feel like I already lost too much of my life to that Powerpoint presentation and hate to relive it. But a good portion of that is already written up, just needs to be finished.

    And stop looking at me, Clemente. Between growing up next to land used by hunters (we collected discarded casings and the occasional bullet), dodging hunters in Gardner and the stalker with the (alleged) rifle in his trunk , I think I’ve earned my hunting snark.

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