WESTFIELD – Following a review by the Law Department, the Conservation Commission voted unanimously to recommend co-holding a conservation restriction with the Franklin Land Trust on 40 acres of farmland on Montgomery Road owned by Robert and Karen Baker.
The idea was first proposed in August by Emily Boss, land protection specialist with the Franklin Land Trust. She said as co-holders the town would participate in annual monitoring of the land. Franklin Land Trust would remain the primary holder. Boss said if any enforcement were required, the land trust would take on any financial burden.
At the Aug. 27 meeting, Conservation Commission members were enthusiastic, but wanted to wait before voting for a ruling by the Law Department. This week, a report from First Assistant City Solicitor Shanna Reed said it was a normal conservation restriction, and that it “looked fine” to her.
Former Conservation Coordinator Karen Leigh, who was filling in until the new coordinator starts Oct. 1, said that Reed questioned why a Memorandum of Understanding was needed. Leigh is leaving to teach full-time at Westfield State University, and had members of her Wetlands class observing the meeting.
Boss said Franklin Land Trust would have primary responsibility for enforcement of the conservation restriction, which is in perpetuity, with Westfield’s participation. She also said the Winding River Land Conservancy handed the responsibility to Franklin Land Trust, and that it could be turned over again.
Boss said that a Community Preservation Act open space grant of $189,900 awarded to the Bakers in 2017 is going to make the conservation restriction possible. “It was important to explore because it was CPA-funded, and seems like the right course of action to invite Westfield’s participation,” she said.
She said under Massachusetts General Law, the Conservation Commission would be the responsible entity, so she came to them first
“I keep looking for a downside,” said Carl Grove.
The land is contiguous to another 30 acres donated to the city by the Bakers and to other city owned conservation land, making a large parcel of open space off of Montgomery Road.
Thomas Sharp then made a motion to recommend to the City Council that the City of Westfield become a co-holder of the property, which passed unanimously.
“Westfield’s a good place. When they put Winding River together, it was a good thing,” said Baker.
Leigh said she would put together the letter for the City Council.