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Land purchase proposal still being considered

June 23, 2011

CHARLESTOWN – The Town Council voted 4-1 at its June 15 meeting to send a letter to landowner Larry LeBlanc with the hopes of creating an open dialog and learning if he wishes to pursue negotiations with the town on his 81-acre property.

As previously reported by The Times, LeBlanc approached the town administrator this past April with a verbal deal of $3 million for his parcel that sits along King's Factory Road. This same piece of land has long been a topic of discussion in town as LeBlanc has looked to develop his land in different ways over the years.

Most recently, he proposed building two wind turbines on the property while also applying to building low and moderate-income homes on the site. Those applications are all currently on hold as they are in the courts system.

LeBlanc even previously approached the town with a price of $5.1 million in late 2008. Following further appraisals, the price was dropped to $4.5 million. But the council voted against the idea of bringing the question to the voters.

And earlier this month, the council held a special meeting with the purpose of receiving feedback from residents about whether or not the town should pursue this property. The overwhelming response was that there is little interest, if any, in the land.

But some opinions were swayed at the June 15 meeting upon learning the new appraisal value of the land ($825,000) and council President Thomas Gentz's hope for the property. He began the discussion on the agenda topic with a lengthy rundown of why he is in favor of saving LeBlanc's parcel as open space.

For one, Gentz wants to preserve the land as it is today for the generations to come. The land, he said, is a keystone piece of property in Charlestown. As you drive east or west, for more than a mile, you can see the trees and peacefulness of the land. And for him, he is thankful that the town has a piece of land like that in town.

“I took the offer to purchase the land seriously,” Gentz continued, adding that wanted to make sure LeBlanc knew the town was serious about his offer. “I wanted to act quickly but responsibly to show the Town Council's desire to save this land as conservation land and open space.”

The scenic beauty of the land, Gentz said, is important because “it defines Charlestown.” There is an educational value to the property as its features can be studied, he added. Also, any development would impact the dark sky that is so cherished by residents and those who use the Frosty Drew Observatory & Sky Theatre. Changing the lay of the land would additionally impact the scenic highway of Route 1, he said, which would in turn decrease the value of Charlestown.

Aside from the aesthetic value of the site, Gentz said that many neighboring residents have water quantity issues that could worsen if the land was developed.

“This is a very special piece of Charlestown,” he said. “I am asking for your support to keep a signature piece of land in Charlestown exactly the way it is for future generations to enjoy as they enter and leave Charlestown.”

For more information, check out this week's edition of The Chariho Times.

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