Conservation Commission Proposes 26-Acre Easement

Conservation Commission alternate member Mike Speltz gave a presentation to a Conservation Commission public hearing on a 26.34-acre parcel at 18 Kimball Road. The parcel is currently being used as a horse farm and is being offered as a conservation easement by owner Leah Doyle.

Speltz said Doyle originally had proposed a life estate for the property as well as the easement, but has decided against the life estate. “The value of it was very low and it didn’t make sense for her for that little bit of money to compromise her ability to use the land as her 401k if worse came to worse and she had a disaster or health issue or whatever,” he explained at the Tuesday, Jan. 14 public hearing.

Speltz said permitted uses for the easement would be forestry, agriculture and agricultural structures, habitat, outdoor recreation, public access and trail development.

He said prohibited uses would be residential, commercial/industrial and mining. Doyle would retain the rights for utilities for the barn, which is heated. In addition, there would be no public use when crops are growing or livestock are present in the paddocks.

Speltz said the current appraised value of the property is $640,000 and the sale price is $395,000, which he said translates to a $245,000 gift to the town.

Speltz showed a graphic of an aerial map of the property and noted the proposed easement is on a separate tax lot from the Doyle residence.

And he noted the proposed easement abuts the existing Granite Ridge easement, which itself abuts the Musquash conservation area.

“The property will allow us to continue trail building through the Granite Ridge easements to her property to an existing trail,” Speltz said.

Commissioner Mike Considine asked why Doyle was proposing the $245,000 gift to the town and Speltz said he thought it was because she wanted to avoid selling the land for development.

Chairman Deb Lievens said the purpose of the hearing was to decide whether to vote to send it to the Town Council for review and continue with developing a purchase and sale agreement.

Resident Ann Chiampa asked the sale value of the land, and Speltz said it was “$640,000 plus $135,000, or $770,000, $780,000.” He explained the $135,000 is the value of the land.

“Why would we be taking it off the tax rolls?” Chiampa asked.

“I think it’s in current use now, it wouldn’t have any effect on it,” Speltz responded.

“So she has to continue to pay taxes on it?” Chiampa asked.

“Right,” Speltz said, meaning the property remains on the tax rolls.

Chiampa also noted Doyle reserved rights that would prevent public use when crops were growing or livestock was present. “That sounds like summer,” she said. “Does that mean you can’t traverse over the property over the summer?

Speltz said Doyle doesn’t grow crops on the land but it would be possible because of the parcel’s agricultural soils.

“She moves the electric paddock around so the horses don’t over-graze one particular part of it, but the public would be free to walk up the driveway and up through a little alleyway,” Speltz said.

Lievens noted that not all easements are for public use, although there would be trails on this property for the public. “The goal is to improve the conservation of land,” Lievens said.

Speltz said the easement concerns the permitted uses.

“What we’re trying to do is keep the property from being developed so the natural services it provides – clean water, clean air, the opportunity to get out and walk the trail and the habitat it provides – will continue,” Speltz explained.

A motion to recommend to the town to proceed with the purchase and sale of a conservation easement on the approximately 26 acres for $395,000 passed unanimously.

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