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CHARLESTOWN - A 27.7-acre chunk of wooded land with approximately 700 feet of shoreline on the eastern banks of Watchaug Pond is on its way to becoming publicly accessible and protected open space. The Charlestown Land Trust will buy the property from the Ocean Community YMCA, with the help of a $475,000 allocation from the town.
The town council voted 3-1 on Monday night to approve the allocation after a lengthy public hearing outlining both the pros and cons of the townâ€™s involvement with this purchase. Council-members Marjorie Frank, Tom Gentz and Greg Avedisian voted in favor, with Lisa DiBello dissenting. Dan Slattery recused himself from the vote because his is a neighbor of the property.
With the $475,000, the town will be picking up a large amount of the bill for the Land Trustâ€™s purchase of the land, and also will be buying a conservation easement, which will protect the land from future development.
The townâ€™s Planning Commission and Conservation Commission had contradictory opinions on the land and how the council should proceed in this matter. The Planning Commission supported the townâ€™s involvement in the acquisition of the land, while the Conservation Commission adamantly opposed.
According to Planning Commission Chair Ruth Platner, there are two main benefits to the Land Trustâ€™s acquisition of the water-front land. They are allowing public access to the property and protecting the pond.
On the other hand, The Conservation Commission, using a scale that is meant to determine the merits of the land acquisition from a conservation perspective, scored the property an 11 out of a possible 30 points.
â€śOur conclusion on this property is that is does not score well based on recognized conservation criteria and thus does not justify the expenditure of town funds since large portions are already well developed and would require major expenditures to return to true open space,â€ť notes the Conservation Commission in the minutes of its Jan. 8 meeting, which was an open walk-through of the property.
The property still holds buildings, roads, a tennis court and a septic system, all remaining from when the property was a YMCA camp.
For more information, pick up a copy of The Chariho Times.