Let's keep the conversation going about conserving town land

Let's keep the conversation going about conserving town land

Mr. Tom Ward: Your recent edict concerning the siting of public facilities for a safety complex - a cornucopia of ideas on the table, excepting "those lands limited by state and federal law" - amuses me, as it reveals something that the folks affiliated with the Monastery Preservation Alliance have been citing all along: The "Monastery Land" is state protected, its Conservation Easement and Restrictive Covenants are governed by Chapter 34-39-3(a) and 3(d) of Rhode Island General Laws. (Title 34: Conservation, Preservation and Enforceable Restrictions.)

So I must ask, in light of the fact that the town "backed off" the Monastery question for the reason above, and given your frank, if not rhetorical, insistence on repurposing Monastery lands for the use of a safety complex, does Cumberland wish to spend our money challenging this law? That could get really sticky, so let's assume we don't.

We now have an opportunity to turn to that sweeping conversation wherein you seem to not only want Monastery supporters to be a part of the process, but to answer all the questions and solve the problem. Like hewn trees, I am stumped. I don't see how the onus to find buildable land, for a municipal function, should be on those who want conserved land conserved. And on a personal note, I'm not qualified for the job. (I assume we pay people who are qualified). But, sure, I'll be part of the process.

Except for a few questions below, I'll refrain from further discussion of the town's inadvertent acts or omissions because that's neither here nor there, so let's address what is here (unless that soon changes) is the Plan's Executive Summary, which leads with: The Town has experienced rapid growth in residential development in the past decades; it is clear that this trend will continue to use up the Town's open lands and diminish its unique character if unchecked ... (Cumberland) recognizes growth management as a major issue facing the Town. Development of Cumberland's vacant land at current rates is a threat to the environment, rural character, safety, appearance and accessibility of residential areas.

You may argue that the Plan's language is a decade, or more, old. True. (And it's being updated as I type.) But do you think that the conundrum we're in - the rate of growth and development, the consumption of land - has abated? As I walk south or north along Abbott Run Valley Road (for instance), or behind the library, around the Senior Center, it seems apparent that this town, to some degree, has lost interest in being good stewards of its own Plan. What of the environmental threats, or the rural character and appearance of our town?

You asked, Tom, of open space land: How much is enough? Twenty-five percent (if it's true) seems good. But if we keep chipping away at the land, we'll never meet our goals according to the Plan. What we like to bill as our rural appeal will be lost. Clearly, we are all interested in safety. The police and rescue professionals need more than a "habitat," they need a town that continuously assesses and appropriately responds to their concerns. (And why does history demonstrate we haven't done so?)

One last thought: I can't answer the question about where to put a "much-needed police and rescue facility" because I don't know that such facility, at least at the scale the town is suggesting (10 acres?), is much needed. Surely something is needed and this is a serious public interest matter, so, yes, I agree with you, let's keep talking, let's feast.

Jayne Guertin