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OS Action Plan to PB 062712 MD, DS, DK Comments

OS Action Plan to PB 062712 MD, DS, DK Comments

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Published by Michael W Dane

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Published by: Michael W Dane on Aug 28, 2012
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12/08/2012

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DRAFTTOWN OF WILBRAHAM OPEN SPACE AND RECREATION ACTIONPLAN 2011-2018 Prepared by the Wilbraham Open Space and Recreation Plan Committee:Charles Phillips, Chair Raymond Burk Margaret Connell Jeffrey SmithJames Mauer, Vice Chair Jason Burkins Walter Damon Judith TheoclesCatherine Callaghan, Secretary Joseph Calabrese Steve LawsonDRAFTA community thrives upon its own character, those elements which make it a special place to live, workand play. A town must be able to sustain and nurture its long term residents as well as attract newcitizens with an appreciation for what makes Wilbraham special.
 
It’s not the municipal corporation’s jobto “sustain and nurture” individuals of the town. This is just an arrogant claim and very socialistic in
nature.
In its 2011-2018 Updated Plan for Open Space and Recreation, the Town of Wilbraham seeks to balancethe prospects for continuing human population growth with the need for town character preservation.
It would be very interesting to hear the details of exactly how the OSRAC proposes to manipulate
gross population and what exactly in meant by “preservation” of character? Ask for specific details as
to how this bold assumption will be achieved while still observing private property rights and theassociated development rights? 
 Wilbraham has been blessed, to date, with what has been characterized as New England rural charm.Visitors and residents as well speak glowingly of the town's quaint characteristics of colonial homes,stone walls, tree-lined roads and an atmosphere of relaxing serenity.We are fortunate to retain these characteristics, but as population increases and as housingdevelopments encroach upon the town's open space, the rural charm will dissipate. To perpetuate forour own appreciation and to save for future residents the pleasurable environment which today'stownspeople enjoy, it is urgently necessary for the town to act today to save open space which we areprone to take for granted.
With the possible exception of dedicated “Town Forest” land, there is nosuch thing as “Town Open Space.” These undeveloped parcels of land are in fact privately owned 
 property and NOT Town Open Space. Ask the authors of this plan to explain exactly how they will achieve their goals while observing due process with respect to stripping development rights (private property rights) from private land owners. 
I want to complement the wordsmith of these very flowery 
words! However, as we’ve seen on the Vision Task Force and from the School Committee, our population
has stalled in gr 
owth. I get no sense of urgency to act hastily since the Planning Board doesn’t have any 
large projects on the agenda since the need for new homes has diminished.
 
 Any new development in town is not likely to be starter homes. Look at ALL of the new single family home developments that have been built in the past twenty years for example. To suggest that new housing built within the scope of this study is going to dissipate the rural charm is absurd. It can beargued that the new development in town has on
ly added to it’s charm, a drive thru any newer 
development can affirm this.
There are still many acres of open space in Wilbraham which could be developed. How much actuallywill be developed in the years to come is, of course, not known. We cannot assume that the land ownerof today who truly loves the land and wishes it to remain forever wild will not be tempted by thepressures of developers to sell it for development. If all these acres were in areas of one-acre zoning, wewould have a potential increase of homes and a substantial increase in town services. Many studieshave shown that the cost of development does not pay its way in new tax revenues. Without specificprotection guidance in
place , the development of Wilbraham’s remaining open spaces wil
l erode thenatural landscape and harm
the community’s sense of place.
 
This seems counter-
intuitive. There aren’t 
likely to be many large parcels of land that a developer would or could be interested in that are in theone-acre zoning areas. New homes in larger zoned parcels are likely to be of higher value which would 
generate more tax revenue. Higher value homes, unlike ‘starter homes’, generally would have smaller 
 families as the kids have matured 
and ‘empty nesters’ would not require more school ser 
vices for 
example. I hear all the time that new home tax revenues don’t offset town service costs
and the
reasoning is school costs (a moot point if a current citizen moves within town or doesn’t have kids). I’veyet to see one of the reported ‘many studies’. It should also be noted that it’s a personal property right 
 for a landowner to make a decision about whether or not they choose to sell to a developer or towhoever they want.
I’d like someone to explain later, what ‘harm the community’s sense of place’ 
means. 
Open space most probably will not remain without active intervention. We must realize its value inpreserving clean air and water, forest and agricultural lands, and wildlife habitats. The existence of openspace enhances a community both aesthetically and economically. Property values tend to rise nearopen space. The value of open space will not depreciate through time while Its benefits can onlyincrease.To retain the present character of the town, citizen support is a must. It is imperative to support landacquisition proposals at town meeting and encourage landowners to preserve open space when theyconsider the future of their land.Whenever our taxpayers buy more land, there is a double impact. Theland is taken off of tax revenues and the land is added to town maintenance costs and liability. The Mission of the Wilbraham Open Space and Recreation Plan Committee:Preserve significant open space by investigating, educating, planning and cooperating.The Plan supports the following goals:
 
1.
 
Maintain an on-going base of support for the Plan by key boards and the public at large througheducation and cooperation. Communicate through public meetings, newspapers and the Townwebsite.2.
 
Promote active growth management to reduce residential sprawl and prevent openspace/recreation land fragmentation. Seek zoning changes through the Planning Board to allow
appropriate use of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission’s Valley Vision 2 strategies.
 3.
 
Foster interconnectivity of Town lands throughout Wilbraham through formal well maintainedtrail systems.4.
 
Preserve and protect environmental resources, include wetlands, water resources, uplandwildlife habitat and wildlife travel corridors. Encourage synergy among all community, state andregional partners for conservation and preservation.
When I ran for this office, my main issue was ‘local control’. I was elected, in part, because a majority of 
the voters agreed with me. I note the urgency in this plan and I wonder why the Planning Board appointed a Vision Task Force which was tasked with finding out what Wilbraham citizens vision theWilbraham future as. With all respect, I note that the same person is the chairman of both OS and VTF.
Maybe there is a conflict of interest here? This OS plan isn’t waiting
until the VTF completes the study of what the citizens think. This plan is pushing for the PVPC Valley Vision II with total disregard of diversethinking. In fact, within the next couple of weeks, we will be compiling the results of theImagineWilbraham survey that has been so strongly supported by VTF.It appears to me that the OpenSpace folks now see themselves as a shadow Planning Board and ashadow Conservation Committee. If they want to serve as a Planning Board member, they should run for the office and be elected and accountable to the citizenry, not do an end around of the survey results.If the VTF completes on schedule by the beginning of next year, and the results indicate that Open Spaceis the number one issue and priority of Wilbraham citizens and various groups, I would have much less of an argument against signing this document.
There have been some word definitions used lately. The words are ‘sustainable’ and ‘self sufficient’ and Iwas told that I don’t understand the difference. I disagree. This OS action plan is all about ‘sustainabledevelopment’. I don’t see anything about helping the citizens of Wilbraham become self 
-sufficient.
Looking at this ‘draft’, I see all kinds of different dates. Seven
-year action plan, five-year action plan, the
2000 plan, the 2010 plan update, summer 2011 timetables, winter 2011 timetables, etc. I know it’s adraft, but maybe in the rush to get this through before the VTF surveys are compiled, there hasn’t been
time to
– 
really- update this document. I hope that the rest of the Planning Board considers thetimetable of the Task Force that they created and oversee with a steering committee and defers signing
the Open Space support letter until then. We don’t have builders breaking down the doors to
overwhelmWilbraham with new housing!
Sounds like this is crying ‘WOLF’!
 

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