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Friday, May 27, 2011

CCA’s Voices of Greed: turning derelict sprawl into a conservation development? Nope.

This second collection of anonymous messages packaged and forwarded by the Charlestown Citizens Alliance to its e-mail list is one of the worst hatchet jobs I’ve seen in a while. The target was a proposal to replace the derelict YMCA camp on Watchaug Pond with a beautifully designed group of ten mid-range homes. Most of the 27.5 acres, now covered with 15 decaying buildings (with old cesspools) and playing fields, would be set aside as conservation space.

This is the most recent design proposal for the moribund project

Most of the writers sound like members of the Sonquipaug Association, a group of mostly out-of-state cottage owners whose one-tenth acre plots lie just south of the Y camp. Some of them used the Y camp as an extension of their cramped back yards, even though it is fenced off private property. One mother described the joy her very young daughter took in frolicking among the debris and derelict buildings, drawing some aghast looks from Council members DiBello and Avedisian.

Progressive Charlestown has covered this issue extensively about this conservation development – before it was voted down by the Town Council on May 9th.

Another “victory” for CCA and its nameless voices of greed over an environmentally sensible propose. NOTE: most of the comments contain untrue or distorted information. CCA takes no responsibility for the irresponsible remarks of its supporters. Here are those voices:

The YMCA land should be preserved for wildlife. Is there any chance of the YMCA working with the Land Trust for a solution? The pond doesn’t need any more pollution from the runoff which results from development. Hardscape created by roofs and driveways, in addition to fertilizer and pesticides from lawns just advances the degradation of our ponds. We need protected land around the ponds to filter these pollutants.
It is totally baffling why most of the Town Council – which seldom deals with zoning issues – (and particularly the new members who have even less familiarity with the lengthy and detailed Comprehensive Zoning Plan and associated land use issues) – appear so willing to change the zoning plan at this time at the request of a single individual. There is certainly no pressing need for condos or homes in Charlestown that would warrant rezoning a parcel of open space/recreational space for housing at this time. For example, there were at least 130 homes and condos on the market in Charlestown on Easter weekend. And the Y certainly can’t argue that it was desperate and had no alternative but to sell the property for development.
There is simply no justification for the Town Council, on May 9, to invoke its rarely exercised power to rezone this single tract of land at this time. That’s a power that should be used sparingly, and only for compelling circumstances. There is nothing compelling about these circumstances.
as far as the land at the ymca owns as open space, i truly feel that the 27 acres should be held as it is. we do not need the beautiful pond congested, polluted and developed, we have plenty of homes available in charlestown and already have free access to the beach and a boat ramp. if we keep changing the comprehensive plan every time someone wants a change in their favor, we won’t be able to stop anything from being built or developed in charlestown.
people move to charlestown because there is open space, natural beaches, wildlife and fresh air. if we keep building it up and changing it for new residents, why would the rest of us want to stay? we like it the way it is. i sincerely hope that the new town council will work together serving the best interests of our town and it’s residents and move forward.An important meeting of the Charlestown Town Council is happening Monday, May 9, at 7 pm at Town Hall. That's the night the Town Council is scheduled to vote on whether to use its rarely exercised power to change the Town's Comprehensive Zoning Plan just so a single tract of land can be re-zoned for a man who wants to build a new development on Watchaug Pond.   An individual who wants to buy 27 ½ acres of land on Watchaug Pond now owned by the YMCA has asked the Town Council to rezone the land from "open space/recreation" to "residential" . He has proposed that a condo development or housing development be built there.

Ordinarily, the Town's Comprehensive Zoning Plan is changed every few years, only after extensive deliberation and input from the public, town department heads, the Planning Commission. Even an outside consultant has been brought in in the past to help with the plan.  Now, however, the Town Council appears to be heading toward an extraordinary vote in favor of re-zoning the 27 ½ acres on May 9th, just at the request of a single individual, for the interests of a single individual. Several nearby homeowners have objected, as well as others. The Planning Commission, which was elected by Charlestown voters to focus on land use issues, has issued an advisory opinion to the Town Council AGAINST the re-zoning. The Planning Commission vote was 4-1 against rezoning.

I own a dwelling in the Sonquipaug community, which is adjacent to and south of the YMCA land on Watchaug Pond.  As such, I am strongly in favor of the YMCA land being rezoned to residential.  In conjunction with it becoming residential and consistent with the Christian mission and housing history of the YMCA, I would also prefer the it be high density and affordable condominiums and include a homeless shelter, all owned and operated by the YMCA.

Even the non-profit Charlestown Land Trust has urged the Town Council not to re-zone.  The Charlestown Land Trust has determined that the 27 ½ acres is highly worthy of protection, and has expressed interest  in working with nearby residents and others to try to have property acquired and protected as open space. Inexplicably, the Y never gave the Land Trust or nearby homeowners' associations or residents a chance to act to preserve the scenic site as a possible nature sanctuary or for similar use before putting the property up for sale for development.

I live within 3 miles of the Y property. Our quality of life was already damaged by the quick over-building of homes during the 90′s. The natural sanctuaries that remain a part of Charlestown should be retained in their current states. The rural atmosphere of Charlestown is the reason that we chose to live here. It increases our property values while giving us a peaceful existence. It protects the wildlife, decreases noise and light levels, decreases traffic and lowers our stress levels.