Town’s Reed Road property will not be sold

Oct 28, 2020

Virtual Town Meeting has spoken: land owned by the town off the corner of Reed and State roads will not be sold or leased for recreational purposes, after an article proposing just that was voted down by a wide margin on Oct. 27.

Meeting members spoke at length — via Zoom — about the controversial article, which had been proposed and recommended 4-1 by the Select Board but rejected unanimously by the Finance Committee.

Burgo Basketball Association founder and president Steve Burgo had presented plans to the Select Board earlier this summer for the nonprofit to build a $6 million recreational facility on the land. 

The proposed project would include both indoor and outdoor facilities with a wide variety of sports and recreational activities available to everyone in the community, Burgo said in July.

But Town Administrator Shawn MacInnes informed Town Meeting members that although Burgo had proposed a plan, passing the article would not guarantee the land would be sold to him. 

“There could be a number of bidders,” he noted.

The Finance Committee had rejected the article due to concerns the property’s value would increase, potential town Parks and Recreation uses for the land, and the timing of the lease or sale, committee chair Teresa Hamm said earlier this month.

A letter from the town’s Parks and Recreation Department to Town Meeting members urged delaying a decision on the land sale until the results of a recreation facility feasibility study become available next year.

Two parcels comprise the land in question, with the northernmost parcel — 30 acres, 12 of which are wetlands — stretching from Reed Road almost to the edge of Lake Noquochoke. A smaller parcel with frontage on State Road consists of 12 acres with about two acres of wetlands.

Some neighborhood residents have also campaigned against selling the land in order to preserve the woods and wetlands.

Stanley Mickelson was the only Select Board member to vote against recommending the article in early October. 

At Tuesday’s Town Meeting, he stated his belief that the town should not sell any assets at this point. “We’ve got a piece of property there that’s worth about a million bucks,” Mickelson noted. “We have so few assets as it is — I think we should hold on to them.”

“I agree that we shouldn’t be selling our assets vicariously like this,” said Town Meeting member Michelle Keith. “I really think we should keep this gem of a property.”

Other Town Meeting members also brought up concerns with vague language in the article as well as the Parks and Recreation letter asking members to delay a decision.

“I’m against this the way it’s worded,” said member Curtis Nunes, while member Cecilia Roberts noted, “If we've already spent money [on the feasibility study], why waste that money and not wait for the results?”

Several members spoke up in favor of selling.

“If we just kick this down the road again, and not do anything on it, we’ve got another whole generation of kids who are not gonna have recreational services in the north end of town,” said Kevin Lee. “It’s a win-win. I don’t know why we keep on stalling with this year after year after year.”

“I see no reason that we sit on this and wait for another study,” said former Dartmouth Youth Soccer Association president Bob Bouley. “We need to move ahead.”

With some people still waiting to weigh in on the issue, Town Meeting voted to end the discussion after half an hour and moved to vote on the article itself, which failed 70 in favor to 150 against.

After the vote, Steve Burgo told Town Meeting moderator Melissa Haskell that he felt it was unfair he didn’t have the chance to speak.

“We should have been given an opportunity to present our case,” he said. “This is ridiculous!”