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Friday, March 11, 2011

Idealism and Reality in Charlestown

The man lives on Watchaug Pond and loves it dearly. His house is next to a fully developed campground with 15 buildings including a year-round caretaker cottage, 4 septic systems, and several wells. The campground hasn’t been used for a few years and it gets listed for sale.

The Open Space
He hears that conservation groups are not interested in purchasing it because it is so developed and he’s concerned that a new owner could make it a very busy campground putting a big load on resources and the lake, and lots of traffic. That would require no significant approvals because it is already a developed campground in “recreational open space” zoning.

Or a new owner could try to get approval for the type of dense cottage development to the south of this property.

He would prefer it be used for low density housing and is thinking about 10 homes on 27 acres and a conservation buffer along the pond. So he contracts to purchase the property even though he has no development experience. Then he comes face-to-face with reality.

Some of the people near this property really like how the YMCA doesn’t use it and really enjoy how quiet it is now. They would like it to stay that way without having to pay for it. One in particular lives in Boston and enjoys spending time enjoying the peace and quiet next door. She asked for 45 minutes to explain that, at the joint Town Council and Planning Commission meeting Wednesday night. During one her three visits to the microphone she told the audience that because she has a substandard lot, about one tenth of an acre, it’s important that the YMCA be forced to keep this land unused so she can enjoy it at no cost.

The majority of her neighbors, including councilman Dan Slattery who recused himself from voting, have enough common sense to realize that there could be much worse outcomes than 10 houses in a quiet area next door. Many people stood up to support Mr. Veazey’s plan.

Another View of the Open Space
But the majority of the Planning Commission has a delusion that this developed property is some sort of forest paradise that must be protected from the evils of 10 homes on 27 acres and confirm again that they stand for “NO” in this town, voting four to one to deny the request to change the Comprehensive Plan label on this land.

Planning Commission alternate member Gordon Foer chastised the YMCA for not trying hard enough to find a conservation group to buy it, though he cannot give any specific ideas of who else to ask. Although Ms. Platner gives us doomsday warnings about the “cost of services” for the ten homes exceeding the taxes they will pay, Mr. Foer thinks that the town should spend millions to buy and maintain the property as a park where our wonderful children can play. I guess he hasn’t gotten the message that we are phasing out children in our town.

At the last minute, Council President Gentz asked Mr. Veazey, his lawyer and the YMCA whether they would like to "continue" the proposal at a future meeting rather than hold a Council vote where his proposal would certainly fail. Mr Veazey agreed, I guess he enjoys torture, and this drama will continue, on April 7.

In the meantime stay tuned for posts with some details from the March 9 public hearing.

Author: Tom Ferrio