DRAFT TOWN OF WILBRAHAM OPEN SPACE AND RECREATION ACTION

PLAN 2011-2018 Charles Phillips, Chair

Prepared by the Wilbraham Open Space and Recreation Plan Committee: Raymond Burk Jason Burkins Margaret Connell Walter Damon Jeffrey Smith Judith Theocles Steve Lawson

James Mauer, Vice Chair Catherine Callaghan, Secretary DRAFT

Joseph Calabrese

A community thrives upon its own character, those elements which make it a special place to live, work and play. A town must be able to sustain and nurture its long term residents as well as attract new citizens with an appreciation for what makes Wilbraham special. It’s not the municipal corporation’s job to “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 balance the 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 the associated 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 housing developments encroach upon the town's open space, the rural charm will dissipate. To perpetuate for our own appreciation and to save for future residents the pleasurable environment which today's townspeople enjoy, it is urgently necessary for the town to act today to save open space which we are prone to take for granted. With the possible exception of dedicated “Town Forest” land, there is no such 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 growth. 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 be argued that the new development in town has only 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 actually will be developed in the years to come is, of course, not known. We cannot assume that the land owner of today who truly loves the land and wishes it to remain forever wild will not be tempted by the pressures of developers to sell it for development. If all these acres were in areas of one-acre zoning, we would have a potential increase of homes and a substantial increase in town services. Many studies have shown that the cost of development does not pay its way in new tax revenues. Without specific protection guidance in place , the development of Wilbraham’s remaining open spaces will erode the natural 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 the one-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 services 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’ve yet 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 to whoever 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 in preserving clean air and water, forest and agricultural lands, and wildlife habitats. The existence of open space enhances a community both aesthetically and economically. Property values tend to rise near open space. The value of open space will not depreciate through time while Its benefits can only increase. To retain the present character of the town, citizen support is a must. It is imperative to support land acquisition proposals at town meeting and encourage landowners to preserve open space when they consider the future of their land. Whenever our taxpayers buy more land, there is a double impact. The land 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 through education and cooperation. Communicate through public meetings, newspapers and the Town website. 2. Promote active growth management to reduce residential sprawl and prevent open space/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 maintained trail systems. 4. Preserve and protect environmental resources, include wetlands, water resources, upland wildlife habitat and wildlife travel corridors. Encourage synergy among all community, state and regional 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 the Wilbraham 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 diverse thinking. In fact, within the next couple of weeks, we will be compiling the results of the ImagineWilbraham 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 a shadow 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 Space is 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 I was told that I don’t understand the difference. I disagree. This OS action plan is all about ‘sustainable development’. 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 a draft, 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 the timetable 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 overwhelm Wilbraham with new housing! Sounds like this is crying ‘WOLF’!

Section 9 Overview

Seven-Year Action Plan

The following action plan represents a careful reevaluation of the original five-year action plan laid out in the 2000 Plan. As the Committee has met monthly for the last nine years, it has become aware of the types of goals that are realistic and achievable in light of time and financial constraints. At the same time, by focusing on a few major goals (and continuing to build community support for the Committee’s work through a variety of means) the Committee believes that its mandate will be better fulfilled. The 2010 Plan Update continues to respect the need for inter-committee involvement in open space and recreation issue. Therefore the background to the achievement of this plan will be the close interaction of the Committee and the Planning Board, Conservation Commission, the Community Preservation Act Committee and Recreation Commission. With semiannual meetings and ongoing discussions and consultations among these boards, all of the major disciplines and town-based authority centers for deciding open space and recreation issues will be integrated. Why not add to the list of options available to the voters that the town sell land that is not needed or no use to the town. Perhaps we could raise revenue in that manner to offset maintenance of other properties. The Open Space Committee has boldly assumed to have controlling interest over vast tracts of private property, but has eliminated individual land owners from the list of principles….why? Private property owners are at the center of every discussion or ambition this particular Committee embarks on and should never lose sight of that fact. Residents are intentionally being omitted from the planning process here and that is simply WRONG! Goal 1: Develop an on-going base of support for the Open Space and Recreation Plan 1. Coordinated Meetings. Hold semiannual meetings with OSPR Committee, Planning Board, Conservation Commission, Community Preservation Act (CPA) Committee and Recreation Commission to discuss issues that arise involving the OSRP. OSRP Committee et al; Ongoing. 2. Appoint Interested Members to the OSPR Committee. Assure that committed and interested individuals with diverse viewpoints are appointed to the OSPR Committee. I suggest the diverse viewpoints should include members directly opposed to this study and goals. The Wilbraham Selectboard is the approving authority for your town. They are the ONLY entity that can enter into contracts or appoint members to Boards and Commissions. The Open Space Committee has absolutely NO AUTHORITY to “assure” or “appoint” anything or anyone, period.

OSRP Committee, Selectmen;

Ongoing.

1. Publicize and Promote the Plan: Take measures to publicize and promote the OSRP. Maintain OSRP on Town website and update as appropriate. Make note of OSRP in meetings of boards that are involved with land use issues. Utilize local media to feature “the Treasures of Wilbraham”. “Create propaganda” would have been much quicker to write, but doesn’t sound as pleasant.

OSRP Committee, Planning Board, Conservation Commission;

Ongoing.

Goal 2: Actively monitor growth to protect rural atmosphere, scenic landscapes, historic sites and community character. I suggest that every member of this committee sign a statement that states that THEIR PROPERTY be restricted in such a manner before subject any other property owner to such restrictions. Ask them to provide a jurisdictional statement that gives authority to the OSRC to seek regulations that favors the aesthetic whims of an un-invested party over the legitimate property rights of the owner of record. HINT: There is no such authority. 1. Flexible Zoning. Encourage continued use of flexible, creative zoning to acquire additional protected open space. Work toward “cluster by right” and residential/commercial zoning approaches to strengthen neighborhoods. Understand that most people move to suburbs to get away from cluster housing or living on top of their neighbors. Am I to understand that the OSRC is suggesting to manipulate zoning laws to intentionally favor private property acquisition? Mixed use zoning is an economic loser to the community, over time. Planning Board, OSRP Committee; Ongoing.

2. Historic District Zoning. Support Historical Commission’s goal of establishing historic district zoning in historic town center. For gods sakes the historic district proposal has been voted down at town meeting again and again, give it a rest. This is none of the OSRC’s business. Other than regulatory pressure on residents and grant collusion, these two entities have completely separate agendas.

CPC, Planning Board, Historical Commission, OSRP Committee; Ongoing.

3. Identify Remaining Parcels of Town-Wide Interest and Prepare Portfolios. Continue to work to review undeveloped parcels in Town for those with the most significance and potential impact on the Town values and goals. Prepare portfolio on each such parcel identifying key features of the parcel and suggesting development or preservation options compatible with Town goals. What if a private land owner simply wants to use his/her land in a manner that conflicts with the assumptions of area “Planners” goals? Could land owners tell public servants to not waste their time and our money on outside uses for their property if they have different individual plans for their land? In other words save time and money by omitting these properties from having developed portfolios. OSPR Committee; 4. Ongoing

Convene Landowner Groups. Convene groups of landowners of large parcels in targeted areas. Involve Minnechaug Land Trust in meetings to acquaint owners with preservation options. Land Trusts and almost always 501 C(3)’s are special interest groups with their own agendas. They use very deceptive practices and encumber property in perpetuity using deed restrictions. People should be warned and educated on the tactics of Land Trusts, not forced to use them as facilitators of “consensus meetings.”

OSRP Committee, Minnechaug Land Trust; Hollow Road West Target Area (Spring-Summer 2011) Stony Hill Road East Target Area (Winter 2011) Please include in these proposals where the revenue will come from to offset the lost tax income from these tracts of land. 5. Input on and Review of Development Proposals. Work with Planning Board and Conservation Commission to review proposed developments and comment on open space and recreation issues involved in such developments. Meet separately, as needed, with developers to work out open space and recreation issues. Why burden businessmen with this nonsense. There will be enough open space and recreation space available to the homeowners on their 40,000 square foot lot plus they will be paying for it each and every quarter through property taxes. Is the OSRC planning to mandate certain recreational and Open Space ambitions on every development project? What will be the added cost to a given project and where does the OSRC get its jurisdiction to force these considerations on a private property owner? Ask for another jurisdictional statement. OSRP Committee, Planning Board, Conservation Commission;

Ongoing as needed. 6. Research Creative Development Options. Analyze potential developments in terms of creative development options including limited development, targeted development and other such options that may maximize landowner return while serving Town goals. Mixed use development and neighborhood strengthening development should be encouraged. The goal of the town should be to serve the taxpaying residents . If ONE of those on the open space committee or vision task force would volunteer to trade their single family home and relocate to a mixed use development type apartment then by all means let them lead the way. Springfield has plenty. Didn’t we move to Wilbraham to get away from this type of living?

OSRP Committee, CPA Committee, Planning Board, Conservation Commission; CPC: Ongoing.

Goal 3: Preserve and Protect Key Town Resources 1. Zoning Enhancements. Work with Planning Board to develop new zoning by- law provisions governing building envelope requirements and open space dedication coordination for flexible subdivision property. Planning Board; OSRPC, CPC Ongoing 1. Frontage Regulation. Work with Planning Board and Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) to develop a coordinated regulatory response to threatened development of scenic and historic frontage in Wilbraham. Leave regulation in the hands of locally elected residents. Who elected the PVPC to regulate our property rights anyway! This just screams of socialist underpinnings and collective land use rights.

Planning Board, PVPC; CPC Completion Date: Fall 2012 2. Water Supply Protection. Review plans for water supply development and move to protect area if needed for water supply. Wilbraham’s public water supply come from the Quabbin. All other supply comes from private wells. DO NOT under the guise of water supply protection attack a landowners property rights. This is very open-ended and noncommittal.

Water Department, Selectmen; Fall 2013 3. Sewer Extension. Analyze potential impact of extension of sewer system in Town on open space issues. Evaluate impact to rate of growth on parcels presently not developable or subject to limited development based on septic system limitations. Examine the tax burden of such extensions and the willingness of taxpayers to fund it. Private property rights are absolute and protected under the state and national Constitution. If a private property owner has a home (new or old) that would benefit from sewer, what business is it of the OSRC? OSRP Committee, Sewer Commission, Selectmen, Board of Health, Planning Board; Ongoing (in response to specific preliminary proposals for sewer line extension). Goal 4: Plan for Recreation Issues 1. Public Lands Brochure. Work with Conservation Commission to develop an update to the late 1970s brochure showing conservation and other public land in Town. Develop the document on the Town website. There’s nothing wrong with this “IF” the government didn’t plunder the land from private individuals. Conservation Commission, Selectmen; Fall 2012 1. Trails and Bikeways. Review all development proposals for possible links to trail and other pedestrian connections throughout Town. Assure trail and path continuity. What factual impetus exists to validate that the OSRC “assure trail and path continuity” in Wilbraham? For example, activists often claim that Rail Trails will reduce traffic, connect low income areas with areas of employment or consumerism, reduce pedestrian hazards, etc…..and they usually fail to meet these stated expectations. OSRP Committee, Recreation Department, Planning Board, Conservation Commission; Ongoing.

2. Funding. Actively pursue state and federal transportation funding for bicycle trails and sidewalks. As long as the funding comes with no strings attached. Is this the best thing for Wilbraham residents to invest in during a critical economic crisis? Wilbraham should openly lobby our legislators to recommit these funds to more productive projects that yield tangible returns to the community.

Selectmen; OSRP Ongoing. 3. Sidewalks. Encourage sidewalks in subdivisions with linkage to existing sidewalks or other pedestrian ways. Sidewalks should probably be on the town’s list of “recreation” development instead of This has absolutely NOTHING to do with Open Space! Planning Board, Selectmen; OSRP Ongoing. 4. Ongoing evaluation. Evaluate Recreation programs annually to ensure a good balance of athletic and cultural activities for all age groups. These programs should be funded entirely by user fees and wherever possible non- profit organizations should run these programs. To provide “culture” is not a role of government at all. Recreation related matters are relevant here, but cultural engineering is NOT a OSRC concern or something in need of regulation.

Recreation Department; OSRP Ongoing. 5. Recreation Resources. Review all development proposals for possibility of significant recreational opportunities (e.g., fields) and consider proposals for land swaps or other exchanges for increasing playing field potential. Include the cost estimate and funding sources for such development and maintenance of such properties over the long term. Pursue with caution and respect for private property rights. OSPR Committee, Recreation Department, Planning Board; Ongoing.

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