CHARLESTOWN — Members of the Town Council have approved a motion authorizing the purchase of a 66.5-acre parcel of land along Alton Carolina Road known as Tucker Woods.

The Tucker Woods property, located in the corridor between the Francis C. Carter Memorial Preserve and Carolina Management Area, serves as a corridor connecting the Carter Preserve wetlands and the Pawcatuck River. The town will acquire the property for an agreed upon $900,000, according to Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz.

The town is eligible to receive a Rhode Island Department of Management open space grant for $400,0000, and will be responsible for funding the remaining $500,000. The purchase will be made using the town’s open space fund balance.

“I don’t mean to minimize the amount of money that would be involved. It is an investment and this is one that you don’t get that money back,” said Katherine Gibson, a trustee with the Charlestown Land Trust, during a recent public hearing. “There are times when towns wish they could go back and preserve the rural nature of their community, which is (the opportunity) we have here.”

Preservation of the Tucker Woods property would provide a critical piece of open space for the community. The preserve when combined with Carter Preserve would create a 1,775.5 acre preserved land, said Planning Commission Chairwoman Ruth Platner.

Platner said that designating the property as open space would also serve as an important way to protect the streams and wetlands that connect the Carter Preserve to the Pawcatuck River. In addition, it would provide protection for beaver and river otter populations.

“The property contains vernal pools, pitch pine forests, streams and other wetlands. It shares a Deep Emergent Marsh with the Francis Carter Preserve,” Platner said. “This marsh is listed as a critical habitat in state data and provides important nesting habitat for birds of high conservation value.”

In a public hearing held on April 12, several of those who spoke via Zoom expressed concerns regarding the purchase price.

Frank Glista, echoing sentiments expressed by several others, said it is a good piece of property but the town already has a vast amount of open space and the price tag seems high for undeveloped woodlands and wetlands.

“The council has a fiduciary responsibility to spend the taxpayer’s money wisely,” Glista said. “I don’t think spending close to three times the assessed value of a property is spending that money wisely.”

Councilor Cody Clarkin, who extended full support for the purchase and noted that the town still regrets not buying a portion of beach several years back because of the price, said he understood the concerns over price.

With a sale price of $900,000, the town will be on the hook for $7,500 per acre, he said. Without the grant, the full sale price would amount to $13,000 per square foot.

The efforts to acquire the property received a considerable amount of support as well, however, with Councilor Bonnie Van Slyke reading 24 letters of support into the record. The letters included endorsements from the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association and Charlestown Land Trust.

“If we don’t buy this now then I think we are going to follow suit where four years down the line we will be missing this opportunity like we missed the beach property,” Clarkin said.

jvallee@thewesterlysun.com

 

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