Friday, June 9, 2000
Acton turns down 234-acre purchase on Carlisle line
Acton taxpayers did not approve the $6.8 million purchase of 234 acres on the Carlisle line, and a proposed large-scale residential development for the parcel seems likely. Earlier in the spring, the Acton Town Meeting had overwhelmingly approved, 607-50, the purchase of the Robbins Mill Pond property off Carlisle Road, but at the May 16 election, with organized opposition, the debt exclusion was voted down with 1,711 in favor and 2,116 opposed.
The parcel abuts Carlisle landowners on West Street, Log Hill and Woodland Roads. Strategically located next to 400 acres of protected open space at Acton's Spring Hill, Nashoba Brook, Hearthstone Hill and Camp Acton conservation areas, the property was a high priority for Acton and a number of groups dedicated to the preservation of land. Now, according to Erin Rowland, spokesperson for the Trust for Public Land, the prospects for preservation are "pretty bleak.The clearest path to preserving the parcel was to work with the town and [Carlisle and Acton Conservation] Trusts." To keep their $7.8 million purchase agreement with the landowner alive, TPL needed the vote at the election. Rowland did say that the group is still working with the land trust to see what might be possible.
Meanwhile, developers have continued to move forward with their plans for development of the property. On March 30, the landowners, Liberty Realty Trust and Drake Trust, had filed a subdivision plan for the parcel which included 126 homes. On May 8, the applicants returned to the Acton Planning Board with two alternative preliminary plans, a standard subdivision plan of 78 homes and a cluster of 126 homes, both of which were disapproved by the board, according to town planner Roland Bartl.
While the prospects for preservation of the Robbins Mill parcel look dim, there are some rays of hope. According to Bartl, the town has not been notified of removal of portions of the land from Chapter 61 forestry status. Such notification is required before there is a change in use, gives the town the right of first refusal and allows officials 120 days to respond. On June 5 the planning board discussed what their role could be in regards to possible acquisition of the parcel but Bartl said there was no decision.
Believing that there is still some reason for hope, Susan Mitchell-Hardt of the Acton Conservation Trust said they will meet with the selectmen on June 6 to discuss what might be done to preserve the land or some portion of it. Obviously disappointed that the group had been unsuccessful against skillful opponents "passionate about no new taxes," Mitchell-Hardt nonetheless had words of gratitude for "the landowners for giving us this opportunity."
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito