The Town Forest, the Town Common, which of those areas involve the Conservation Commission, and a proposed plan for multiple housing units across from the Common led to plenty of discussion at the Heritage Commission.
Commissioner Martin Srugis asked which group has control over the Town Forest.
“I saw the thing going back and forth between the Town Manager and the Conservation Commission and I know it’s town property,” Srugis said at the Thursday, May 22 meeting.
Chairman Art Rugg said the 1984 Town Meeting granted the Conservation Commission authority to manage all town forests. “At the recent Town Meeting, others submitted a plan to transfer authority to the Town Manager, as the Common is right now,” he said. “Basically by our Charter, the Town Manager has responsibility over all town-owned land, but that failed.”
That leaves the Town Forest under the Conservation Commission’s management.
Rugg said he had sent an e-mail to Conservation Commission Chairman Deb Lievens, asking when the eradication of invasive species in the Town Forest would take place. “Basically they have to wait until full leafing takes place, then they can make arrangements to have it done,” he said. “So I’ll be pressing her for a timeline.”
Meanwhile, commissioner Janet Cichocki asked if Town Manager Kevin Smith had done anything about the invasive burning bushes on the Town Common. The Common is under his management.
Councilor Jim Butler said Town Manager Kevin Smith had “asked the Conservation Commission for some plan as to how they were going to attack it. Quite frankly, as far as I’m concerned, they haven’t fulfilled that. Whether we have the funding or not, I’d like to know that when we do have the funding, there is a plan in place.”
“I’m trying to get a time frame and I’ve been getting some curt responses,” Rugg added.
“There’s a clash right now,” Srugis said. “The Conservation Commission wants to leave it the way it is.”
But Comprehensive Planner John Vogl reminded the group that the invasive burning bush plants on the Common were a Town Manager issue, not under the purview of the Conservation Commission.
“I’d like them (the Conservation Commission) to do their thing so we can do our thing with clearing and trails and so forth,” Rugg said.
Vogl said “there’s a war going on” and that what the Town Council directed Smith to do at an earlier time was to come up “with a vision and some direction and report back to the Council. As far as the Master Plan is concerned, we will keep moving forward and see if we can provide some direction.”
Butler said the Town Common/Town Forest was a hot and sensitive issue, as it is an historic area.
Referring to a proposal for multiple housing units on a parcel of land between the two churches on Pillsbury road, Butler said that once a decision is made on one plot of land, it would snowball and be difficult to “say no to some people if the concept is the same.”
Rugg said the town needed to be careful in establishing a precedent.
“If you take a look at the definitions of some of that zoning, once you pull the trigger on it, they could put in a gamut of things,” Butler said.
Rugg said something also could take place on Andy Mack’s property behind the Grange.
“This isn’t (Route) 102 or the airport, this is the historic fabric of our community,” Butler said.