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Wakefield plans to acquire Union Meadows properties

UNION MEADOWS seen by satellite photo. The Wakefield Conservation Commission is proposing to purchase properties from the marshland in the center right north to Marsh Road at the top, including 63 acres of dry land. (click for larger version)
September 22, 2011
WAKEFIELD — Dave Mankus, Chairman of the Wakefield Conservation Commission, came before the Wakefield Board of Selectmen last Wednesday, Sept. 15, to ask the board to support a grant application that would help fund the purchase of 113 acres comprising six properties in Union Meadows.

Union Meadows likes alongside Route 153 from the Union Meadows dam at the junction of Route 153 and Route 16 at the Irving Station, more than a mile toward Sanbornville to Marsh Road.

"We've been offered the east side of Union Meadows," Mankus said, reminding the board that the town has already protected the south side from development through easements. The Conservation Commission intends to purchase the properties and then offer a easement to NH Fish & Game in return for a payment that will defray a substantial portion of the purchase cost ($85,000).

The purchase will involve six parcels, the largest of which is 67 acres. Of the total of 113 acres, 63 acres are owned by an educational trust, with the remaining 50 acres held by a family trust. Although there are substantial wetland areas involved, the purchase will include 63 acres of dry land, Mankus said. The Fish & Game easement will prohibit motorized vehicles (ATVs and snowmobiles) but allow hunters and fishermen to walk in on trails from a parking lot on Marsh Road. Youth groups can also camp overnight on three weekends a year. "There's good hunting and fishing on that property," he said.

Selectmen and the audience at the meeting were shown aerial photographs of the property taken by Mankus as well as the satellite photo available through Wakefield's tax mapping software. The mapping software also allowed the viewers to see the six lots in question.

Mankus said the commission is in the process of getting a professional appraisal, which should be ready in two weeks.

Trouble is, the deadline for filing grant applications to the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) is Monday, Sept. 19. LCHIP still has grant money available to help make purchases like Union Meadows from funds previously appropriated, but it is expected to lose most if not all funding for the next two years, Mankus said, so "it's now or never."

He proposed to prepare the application for submission on Monday, even though he will not have a final appraisal by then; instead, he will cite a range, up to $262,000. From the audience Relf Fogg said the total value of the six lots from the tax cards was $231,100.

The Conservation Commission has $113,000 available to make the purchase. A grant from LCHIP and funds from the Fish & Game easement should make up more than the balance needed once a price has been set with the owner. Mankus said the commission does not want to use up all of its funds for this purchase, nor does it want to go to the taxpayers for additional money: that's why an LCHIP grant could make a big difference.

Once the professional appraisal is completed, negotiation with the owner can start. To qualify for the Fish & Game and LCHIP payments, however, the appraisal will need to be upgraded to what Mankus described as "federal yellow book standards," which would cost a $2,300 in addition to the $2,300 the commission is paying for the current appraisal. Mankus said Keith Fletcher of Moose Mountain Regional Greenways might be able to help with the appraisal upgrade cost.

According to Rich Cook of NH Fish & Game Union Meadows ranks in the top 15 percent of available properties in terms of wildlife value.

Selectman Mark Duffy commented that since the properties involved are all in current use, the impact on tax revenues would be small.

Mankus asked selectmen if they could authorize Chair Ken Paul to sign p. 17 of the application, which the board voted to do.

Resident Steven Brown questioned Selectman Peter Kasprzyk's potential conflict of interest in the sale, since his firm was representing the landowner. Kasprzyk clarified that he was laid off by that company, so he has no personal interest in whether the property is sold or not. He also said that although he is Selectmen's Representative to the commission he was not at the commission meetings where this project was discussed. He did remind the audience that the proceeds from the sale will go to the educational trust, which benefits the student of Wakefield.

Mankus invited selectmen and the audience to a site walk at 9 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 18. He also asked the audience to get the word out that the commission needs more members and alternates: currently there are only two active members and one alternate at meetings.

A followup conversation with Mankus revealed that only two others joined him for the Sunday site walk. However, he was able, with the help of Keith Fletcher and surveyor Nate Fogg to get the LCHIP application together, and on Monday he had the required eight copies made at Staples and personally delivered the application to LCHIP in Concord one hour and twenty minutes before the noon deadline. He said the application, which was for $50,000, was accepted as complete.

The next meeting of the Conservation Commission will be Monday, Sept. 26, at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

Varney Smith
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