November 23, 2011WAKEFIELD — It was a evening of public hearings as selectmen here voted to accept a grant, conserve a half-acre historical site, and listen to the Conservation Commission's plan to purchase and conserve a large tract of land.
First up was Wakefield Police Chief Ken Fifield who asked the board to accept a $3,600 highway safety grant. The grant will be used to run extra patrols during commuting hours, in three-hour blocks of time, with officers watching for aggressive drivers and speeders. The grant money was not anticipated and therefore a public hearing was required to accept the money mid-year.
With no objection, the board voted unanimously to accept the money.
Old Maids Tavern
The town now holds a historical preservation easement on a half-acre site on the edge of a field on a 30-acre parcel on Old Stage Road. The easement has been given by the property owner, Robert Twombley.
A historical preservation easement is a legal agreement that conveys a partial interest in a property to another party. The owner gives the right and responsibility to the town to protect and preserve the historical and architectural value of a site where Old Maids Tavern used to sit. Part of the foundation still exists on the site and the easement will protect it forever from development. The town's Heritage Commission research has confirmed that the Tavern was a popular stop in the 1800s for stagecoach travelers who would stop to change horses on their way to Conway. The commission also recommended that the town hold the easement rather than a state or other historical agency that would charge the town fees to monitor the easement.
The selectmen voted unanimously to accept the easement. The commission will be placing a sign on the historical site and hopes to erect a fence as a later date as funding allows.
With a mile of riverfront and 3,000 feet of marsh frontage on the east side of Branch River sits 121.5 acres of land that the town's conservation commission wants to own.
Commission member David Mankus gave a presentation at the Nov. 16 selectmen's meeting detailing why the commission wants to buy it and how they hope to pay for it.
There was some concern raised previously that Selectman Peter Kasprzyk had a clear conflict of interest when it comes time to decide whether or not the town should purchase the property. Though that issue was not raised at the Nov. 16 meeting, Kasprzyk got ahead of the concern and voluntarily chose to recuse himself from all discussion and voting relating to the property as he is not only a selectman but also a member of the Conservation Commission and the forester for the current owner of that property.
Mankus was asked if the commission buying this property takes a large, buildable lot off the tax rolls. Mankus explained that the property has been surveyed and, at most, it could support three house lots.
Mankus acknowledged that none of the negotiation with the owner has taken place yet and the commission has not talked sale price with the owner or made an offer. The property is currently assessed, he said, at $230,000 and is mostly in current use.
NH Fish and Game officials have visited the site, he said, and offered $85,000 towards the purchase of the property. There are restrictions with accepting the money including that no improvements can be made to the property, it must be preserved primarily for hunting and fishing, no wheeled vehicles are allowed and no camping is allowed. They are willing to make an exception that four weekends a year groups such as the boy scouts can camp on the property. Basically, nothing can be done to the property that would bother the animals, he said. An audience member chimed in "Can't bother the animals except to kill them."
Mankus said the commission has applied for a highly competitive $50,000 grant from NH Land and Cultural Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) and expects some funding help from Moose Mountain Greenways. Additionally, when current use landowners take their property out of current use, they are required to pay a land use change tax. That tax is being set aside in a conservation fund that could also help to offset the purchase price. The goal, said Mankus, is that no money would be raised from general taxation to pay for the project.
There was no vote taken at the selectmen's meeting as this was the first of several hearings that will be held before the property is purchased.