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Selectmen Split on Supporting Conservation Restriction

Annual Town Meeting members will be asked on May 19 to place eight parcels of land, encompassing about 200 acres, from Louisa Lake to Interstate 495 under at permanent conservation restriction. Various town officials note the property is some of the sensitive land in Milford since it surrounds the community's aquifer and water supply. The protected land would also abut the Upper Charles Trail, which is shown in this photo with Louisa Lake in the foreground. Jane Bigda photo

The Board of Selectmen is split, 2-1, on supporting an article being voted upon at the May 19 Annual Town Meeting that would put 200 acres of environmentally sensitive land under a conservation restriction (CR). Selectman William Buckley is in favor of the part of the article putting the various pieces of land under the Conservation Commission's jurisdiction, but is against having an outside third party hold the CR.

Even before the board took up discussing the article on April 28, Steve Trettel and John Seaver, co-chairs of Citizens for Milford, spoke out against the CR. "Those parcels should never be out of the town's control," Trettel said. "Both sides are for conserving and protecting that land, but one side is for exclusive local control," Seaver added. "In general, I am completely opposed to the conservation restriction," said resident James Wheelock, who frequently has spoken out against the idea.

"I think we're all trying to do the right thing here," Chairman Dino DeBartolomeis said as he asked Town Engineer Vonnie Reis to take the board through a PowerPoint presentation explaining what a CR is. "It does seem that everyone is on the same page that we need to protect this land," she said. Placing the land under a CR will help the town as it deals with new stormwater management regulations by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Reis added. "It is something that will help the Charles River."

Having a partnership with The Trustees of Reservations (TTOR) – the non-profit land trust that town officials want to hold the CR – will "demonstrate that Milford is forward-thinking," Reis said. "They can bring a lot of resources to the Town of Milford that don't exist," she said. "They will help bring other people to Milford to enjoy the beauty of this area." The wording of the CR can be amended in the future, Reis explained. "The town retains ownership of the land. We're not giving away anything to anybody. We just have a partner who is helping us manage the land," she explained.

"The conservation restriction's really our document," added Town Planner Larry Dunkin, noting that it could be amended or even rescinded in the future through a process that includes approval by the state's Secretary of Environmental Affairs. "It's not meant to be easy. The whole point of protecting the land is to protect the land," he said.

Robert Buckley, Conservation Commission chair, said that "Putting it under the Conservation Commission's control is terrific. But, it doesn't protect it in perpetuity." Continuing, he said, "You really want to put this into a permanent, in perpetuity, restriction. It makes sense to do a conservation restriction." Speaking of TTOR, the Conservation Commission's Buckley commented, "They can be of great assistance in the future in protecting other properties."

"It's easy to support something. Now, it's difficult to commit to it," said Reno DeLuzio, former town planner and chair of the Upper Charles Trail Committee. "You either want to preserve it in perpetuity or you don't."

Selectman Brian Murray said he supported the article. "For the life of me, I can't see what the debate is about," he said. "We're really trying to do the right thing," DeBartolomeis said, voicing support for the article. "I'm very comfortable with Town Meeting making the decision."

"Reasonable people can disagree on important issues," said Selectman Buckley. "While I disagree, I'm perfectly happy with this going to Town Meeting."


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