Council Weighs In On Conservation Ordinance and Potential Easement

The Town Council voted unanimously to approve a proposed change to the conservation area ordinance relative to the parking area at the Kendall Pond Conservation Area on South Road. They also got an early briefing from the Conservation Commission on a potential conservation easement on Cross Apple Farm on Adams Road.

Recently the Council asked the Town Manager to get the Conservation Commission and the neighborhood group, Friends of Kendall Pond, together to work out a mutually agreeable plan for managing access to the conservation area to minimize the potential for people using the area for illegal activities.  Lisa Drabik, Assistant Town Manager, reported that the meeting was held on April 27. The meeting also included a representative from the Londonderry Police Department.

Drabik reported that all parties agreed that they supported the proposed amendment to the ordinance which would limit the hours of access to 5 a.m. – 8 p.m. during daylight savings time and 5 a.m. – 6 p.m. during other times of the year.  The fine for a first offense is $100 and increases to $1,000 for a fourth offense. In addition, signs will be posted clearly listing acceptable activities in the area.

At the direction of the Town Council, there is currently a large tree blocking off the parking area.  The parties agreed to leave that in place while they continue discussions on further steps that could be taken, including the possibility of installing a gate.  During public comment, long-time resident Deanna Mele weighed in suggesting that other actions short of a gate should be tried before taking that drastic of a step.

The Council then moved on to hear from Mike Speltz of the Conservation Commission about a potential conservation easement on a farm property on Adams Road.  No formal offer to purchase the easement has been made. Rather, Speltz was there to get an early read on the interest level of the Council before spending time and money getting an appraisal done.

The property is 11.9 acres belonging to Cross Apple Farm and is currently leased to Moose Hill Orchards.  According to Speltz, the vast majority of the land is prime farmland and is considered by NH Fish and Game to be “Best in Biological Region” for the area stretching from Rochester toward Keene.  This means that it is among the top 30% of most valuable land in this region for supporting wildlife.  Speltz also noted that this land is along the Apple Way Scenic Highway, as designated by the State of NH, connecting Londonderry’s five orchards as a scenic highway.

The landowner would like the town to purchase a conservation easement on the property rather than buy the parcel outright. With a conservation easement, the landowner permanently gives up their right to develop the land or sell it to someone else for development.  In return, they can continue to use the land for approved purposes that are consistent with conservation aims including farming. Councilor Green mentioned that the Council usually prefers outright purchases over easements. In response, Councilor Dolan said that in this case where there is active farming occurring he would prefer to not have the town be the owner.

In preparation for the Council meeting, Town Manager Kevin Smith asked the Planning Department to prepare an estimate of the development potential of this parcel. Their preliminary estimate was that it could be either a 7-lot single family home subdivision or 12-18 over 55 units in a row house configuration.

In the end, the Council had enough interest in the potential easement to ask the Town Manager to reach out to the land owner to explore the topic further.

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