Pascommuck Trust members Marty Klein and Gerrit Stover were featured in a Daily Hampshire Gazette article published on Monday March 13th. They both gave a detailed description of how the proposed project would have an environmental impact and propose an alternate plan that would balance the need for affordable housing and conservation. Here is a link to the full article.
|To our PCT members and friends:|
You may know that a proposed multi-use development, “Sierra Vista Commons,” is under consideration by Easthampton’s Planning Board and Conservation Commission. This 30+ acre development starts at Route 10 and spreads back over farmland, wetlands and forest, down to the critical habitat of the Manhan River, a focus of our work for decades.
Your PCT board is looking closely at the plans presented by the developer and offering alternative visions for how this land could be developed. We have some serious concerns about the impacts this commercial/residential project would have on our community at large and our precious natural resources.
Our Dwyer Conservation Area and its trails are situated 400’ across the Manhan from the proposed development. Sierra Vista plans to construct dense housing coming downhill and ending in proximity to the river. Our mission is to protect Easthampton’s natural resources, and we worry about a loss of habitat along this unique corridor, used by wildlife to travel through the very heart of our city. The river, the rich fields, and the old trees that currently exist here are critical habitat for creatures large and small. Current plans would destroy or impact much of this land. Two and a half acres of trees plus many more acres of grade A farmland will be buried under pavement and imported topsoil.
The two following links are maps of the proposed project and the environmental impact.
Link to before and after maps of proposed project
Link to map of environmental context
The Immediate Threat
We are at an important crossroads in Easthampton and the surrounding region. One road leads to the irreversible sprawl that we are all too familiar with. The other road will protect our rich mosaic of forested and agricultural lands, rivers and wetlands, biodiversity, and scenic and historic properties. The first road diminishes the beauty and importance of natural systems. The second road protects them, fitting human uses to those natural systems.
Development pressures are unprecedented. It is imperative to protect land while there is still a chance to do so. The next 5 to 10 years may determine the long-term character of our region. We have a great responsibility to guard against ecological and scenic decline.
The following options may have significant tax benefits:
Conservation Restriction (CR)
A CR is a legal agreement between a landowner and a conservation organization whereby the landowner retains ownership, but gives up the right to develop the land. CRs are permanent and remain in effect when the land is sold or inherited.
Gift of Land
A landowner’s gift of property to the land trust is protected and managed in accordance with the donor’s wishes.
Sale of Land
The land trust may purchase land with important natural resource values, or which is threatened by development, and protect it.
Retained Life Estate
Landowners may donate property to the land trust but retain a life interest for themselves and their family. This allows them to live on or use the land for their lifetime.
The land trust works with the landowner to design a limited development scenario whereby environmentally sensitive land is protected as open space, while well-planned development in the remaining area allows the owner to realize income.
A gift of land through a person’s will removes the property from the donor’s taxable estate.
We welcome the opportunity to meet with landowners to discuss various options that may be available for their land.