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Mansfield Conservation Land Dispute Causes Debate

Mansfield selectmen discuss the possibility of splitting up land voted for conservation at town meeting.

The Mansfield Board of Selectmen discussed the possibility of changing the use of land on Essex Street (parcel 97) designated at the 2012 town meeting for article 97 conservation protection.

Selectmen chair Olivier Kozlowski said that, while the town meeting vote gave the land to the board, it specifically gave them permission to have the ability to put the land in conservation and did not dictate that they have to.

“One of the proposed plans was to create a lot A and a lot B that would split,” he said. “This plan puts [the back half] under article 97 and leaves the front portion of to be determined.”

Kozlowski said that the parcel could be sold for homes and real estate, which town manager William Ross said could sell for an estimated $155,000 per lot.

“That could be money in the town coffers that we could use,” Kozlowski said.

President of the Mansfield Natural Resources Trust Lou Andrews said he disagreed.

“It was clear people voted to transfer this land to the conservation commission,” he said. “People had the opportunity to decide to split the land at the town meeting. I believe the article was written so you could transfer it all, not just part of it. I wish you would follow the direction of the town meting and vote to sign the document to transfer the property.”

Selectman Kevin Moran agreed with Andrews, saying that the issue was resolved at the town meeting.

“We should’ve made that determination before we went to town meeting,” he said. “I just don’t like splitting hairs like that.”

Frank DelVecchio September 11, 2012 at 11:12 AM
How quickly would that $155,000 be absorbed by the net cost to the Town of a family with 2 children living in a new home on that parcel? Unlike some, I’m not afraid of new families moving into town, no matter how many children they have, but from a revenue perspective sale of this lot would be a clear mistake to anyone with the least amount of foresight. Unless there’s some compelling undercurrent here that we’re not being told about, the vote should stand. In my view, the choice and the vote at Town Meeting was clear. Sometimes, and in some Towns, they actually buy land for conservation despite the fact that it could be developed!
Bob Thomas September 11, 2012 at 03:25 PM
@Frank DelVecchio, If the lots sold for $155,000 each and a developer came along and built homes to the tune of about $500,000 each, you then have property valued at $655,000 each, each bringing in about roughly $8 - 10,000 in annual taxes. Builders and framers would be building; lumber companies would be supplying framing materials, kitchen cabinets and trim; subs would be doing electrical and plastering; groundskeepers would be landscaping; machine operators would be digging and back-filling foundations; road crews would be building roads; concrete suppliers would be supplying material for foundations and roads; window and door manufactures would see a spike in production; mortgage lenders would be lending at handsome profits and paying taxes on those profits, etc., etc. The list goes on. Town meeting did NOT dictate the transfer - it authorized it. And did it give a time certain for action by the selectmen? The selectmen are under no mandate to transfer the property into oblivion where it will never generate revenue for the town. People need to rethink this.
Frank DelVecchio September 11, 2012 at 05:46 PM
@Bob Thomas, Thoughtful comments. I don't disagree withthe spin-off economic impact you introduce to the discussion, but in terms of net impact to the Town budget, selling the parcels would almost certainly result in a net loss, and perhaps a substantial loss, to the Town. Mansfield's per pupil expenditures - although they are among the lowest in the state -are about $10,000 per student. One student in the Mansfield School system in each house would absorb all of the tax revenue - before any other town services are considered. Maybe that's fine, and maybe that's what we want as a community - this is a family town, and certainly there's a need for honest work in this economy, in addition to the other benefits you point out. On the other hand, as is the case almost anywhere else, opportunities to add to conservation land in Mansfield are limited. You may be correct in your legal intepretation of the Town Meeting vote, but I think that the confusion cited at Town Meeting has been overstated and that the intent of the vote was to add to the Town's conservation land. That's my subjective assessment as a participant in the vote.
Louis Andrews September 12, 2012 at 05:37 PM
Mr DelVecchio is correct. There are many studies over the years that show conserving land makes more economic sense than developing the land. As of this writing it looks like the Selectmen will follow the will of the town meeting and transfer the property to the Conservation Commission.

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