When it comes to the whole issue over the Colby Farm Property, one has to understand that our Smart Growth Ordinance stresses, and I am simplifying it to state its bottom line; has to do with preserving our farms, our quality of life, our watershed (which includes wetlands) and our wildlife. Bundle all these lofty goals, and the lots in question fit them to a tee. And the way City Hall has approached the parcels in question has revealed a lot of insight into the mindset of the Corner Office*.
Somehow the Open Space Committee was persuaded to dispense with a large sum of money for some land that was not threatened by development over by Curzon Mills. The citizens, not being naturally devious-minded, scratched their heads collectively, wondering why such a purchase was so darned urgent, shrugged our shoulders and went about our business. Then all of a sudden, the agricultural lands of Colby Farms appears, complete with a horrifying plan to put 18 housing units into a wetlands sensitive area, and the statements made by the Mayor in the Daily News as reported on January 6th; and then it all made sense. The conclusions, reinforced by the Bulldozer’s rather predictable behavior; could only be one thing – tax revenue, imagined or real, had compelled some deals to be made necessitating the shelving of our city’s long-held urban planning principles.
This has raised the ire of many a citizen and the natural conduit of their sentiment, the city council, has been their mouthpiece. Now, according to some accusations, that Councilors Cameron and Connell are some kind of mind-numbed servants of the Bulldozer; has been niftily dispensed. Barry Connell, who introduced and then successfully passed the new Wetlands Ordinance that now covers the whole city (not just Plum Island); is intimately aware of what is at stake. Ed Cameron is a strong advocate for open space protection and both of them could see this whole situation just didn’t look right.
Here below are the particular lots that are in question:
Most of the lots are along Low Street and Crow Lane. The only area that is being offered to the city is Lot 2 which is the furthest east on this map. But since the farm is considered an entirety, the other lots that contain the barn and the farmhouse will have to be re-zoned also from agricultural to commercial. The question to be had is simple; is the city willing to purchase not just $275,000 worth of land but the others which will eventually be offered?
Combining these other areas could be quite a good deal. First, the farmhouse could be sold off by the city to partially recoup the open space expenditure. Second, with the barn demolished, the remaining combined area would be perfect for playing fields especially the space-consuming demands of soccer. Thirdly, the furthest west lot could be obtained to help complete a vital missing link in the Little River Trail System. It could join the other conservation lands around it that are administered by Essex County Greenbelt or the Water Department. The Parks Commission has long sought the development of this wildlife area for passive recreation. Forget a bunch of canines fighting amongst themselves in a field**, a whole adventure of smells and exciting terrains could await the dog and his owner! This will be of tremendous benefit to add land to the watershed and to encourage passive recreation as well as being an option for those who walk their dogs.
The purchase of this area could translate into yet another lot prevented from being covered by impervious surfaces that contribute to erosion and flooding downstream; another badly needed recreational area and it could even provide a means to recoup the cost.
This will require a complicated negotiation but, “WHAT A DEAL!”
Please let the councilors: Cameron, Connell & Eigerman know your thoughts on these parcels and also give input to Larry Giunta, Ward 5 Councilor who represents this area.
* Corner-office. In Newburyport, the room immediately to the right of the front door of City Hall traditionally houses the Mayor’s office and staff. The corner of this historic building then is always the location for the Executive.
** Can you imagine the danger of all that concentrated dog feces leaking into the wetlands?
The Proposed Little River Trail System: