Voters to decide on land preservation, maritime center at Town Meeting

Oct 11, 2016

Town Meeting representatives will be asked to allocate Community Preservation Act money to purchase land on Allens Pond and fund a portion of the maritime center project in Padanaram when the meeting convenes on October 18.

Community Preservation Act funds are raised through a 1½ percent property tax surcharge. Use of the money must be approved by Town Meeting.

If voters approved this, the Community Preservation Committee would grant a total $600,000 to the Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust for the Ocean View Farm preservation project. The project focuses on the $8.1 million acquisition of 115 acres abutting Allens Pond.

The property is divided into coastal shrubs and salt marsh in the southern half, and agricultural fields in the north. DNRT will own and manage the southern half as a reserve open to the public, with the Buzzards Bay Coalition and Dartmouth’s Conservation Commission holding a conservation restriction to prohibit all development potential.

"The project will preserve land benefiting water quality and important fish and wildlife habitat, and it will preserve valuable farm land from being lost to development," said Buzzards Bay Coalition Vice President Brendan Annett via email. "A trail leading down to the shoreline will be created giving the public access to this unique and special place," he added.

Round the Bend Farm would own the northern section, with the Coalition and the United States Department of Agriculture holding an agricultural land easement over that section of the property to protect it from being converted away from agriculture.

The project is also dependent upon a $400,000 state grant, $3 million in federal grants, a $2 million contribution from Round the Bend Farm, and $2.2 million in private fundraising.

Both the Select Board and Finance Committee unanimously supported the project’s funding.

The second proposal would use CPA funds to help build a public maritime center on Water Street. After Town Meeting voters quashed the $765,000 purchase of 4 Water Street for a maritime center at Spring Town Meeting, town officials sought to repurpose the $1 million state grant that would have helped fund the $1.7 million recreational park and public boating facility.

After several design iterations and extensive feedback from the community and abutters, officials have proposed a $1.2 million center on town-owned land at the corner of Bridge and Water streets. The 530-square-foot public maritime center and pier would include a public deck to give residents and visitors to Padanaram a place to enjoy the harbor, a public boat ramp, two bathrooms and two showers, and a 14-by-14-foot, multi-purpose room to be used as a welcome center and seasonal office for the harbormaster.

Select Board Vice Chairman and member of the Water Street Landing Rehabilitation Committee Frank Gracie said the CPC funding is minute in comparison to the total cost of the project.

“It’s a nice way to improve that area for residents of the town. It would make it nicer looking,” Gracie said via phone.

Voters will decide if the Community Preservation Committee can appropriate $186,209 towards the construction of the esplanade section of the dock. The Finance Committee unanimously supported the project, while the Select Board supported it with a 4-1 vote.

Funding for the project is also dependent on the $1 million Massachusetts Seaport Economic Council grant; $9,200 from the Dartmouth Department of Public Works to go towards paving; and the Waterways Department will supply both $7,500 to go towards a gangway and a $6,000 dinghy rack.

The remaining two Community Preservation proposals are housekeeping measures. The first would move $90,000 from annual revenues to the Housing Reserve Fund, and the latter would move another $90,000 to the Historic Preservation Reserve Fund. These proposals fulfil CPA requirement to reserve at least 10 percent of anticipated revenues towards each of the CPA uses. Both were supported unanimously by the Finance Committee and Select Board.