CPC reconsiders North Pond funding, request passes

SOUTHWICK – The Community Preservation Committee (CPC) voted on Wednesday night in favor of the Franklin Land Trust’s request to have the CPC allocate $500,000 to go towards helping to preserve undeveloped land adjacent to Congamond’s North Pond.

On January 31 the CPC voted 4-4 on a motion to accept the application request from the Franklin Land Trust to have the CPC provide an additional $500,000 from their account to help preserve the open space next to North Pond. Since the result of the vote was a tie, the motion did not pass.

During their February 5 meeting, the Select Board heard from residents that were disappointed to see the initial request for CPC funding not approved. The Select Board then informed the crowd in attendance that they would approach the CPC to see if they would reconsider holding another vote for the request.

Members of the Community Preservation Committee discuss the request for an additional $500,000 of funding prior to the vote. (Photo by Greg Fitzpatrick)

Prior to the CPC taking the vote on Wednesday night, members of the committee had the opportunity to give their thoughts on the request. Dave Gunn believes that the project is right in line with the types of projects the CPC is supposed to provide funding for.

“I believe that it meets the committee’s work of preservation,” said Gunn. “I will continue to support that as I think there’s tremendous benefits.”

CPC Vice-Chairman Chris Pratt echoed Gunn’s statement.

“I think this is exactly why we agreed to join the CPC of the town, to support projects like this,” said Pratt.

Fellow CPC member Susan Fox made those in attendance aware of what the CPC has already done for the project.

“We did already commit $1 million to this project,” said Fox. “The board is aware of how important this project is.”

After the CPC decided to approve the request, a number of North Pond supporters voiced their satisfaction for the outcome.

Michelle Pratt was pleased with the result, especially because of the support from town residents.

“We very, very much appreciate it,” said Pratt. “This is our town, these are the people that love this property.”

Deb Herath of Citizens Restoring Congamond (CRC), another local organization that supports preserving the North Pond land, informed everyone at the meeting that the CRC will match any donations that are made by people in the community. The CRC will match donations up to $2,500. Herath noted that if the 146-acre property wasn’t preserved, people who made donations would get their money back.

There was a large turnout of North Pond supporters at the Community Preservation Committee meeting on Tuesday night. (Photo by Greg Fitzpatrick)

Moving forward, with the additional $500,000 approved, the funding will now go to a special town meeting that will be scheduled in March. Voting residents in Southwick will have the opportunity to pass the $500,000 request for finding to go towards preserving the North Pond open space.

According to the Franklin Land Trust, about a week ago, they were given extension by the state for a deadline of March 30 to raise the $5 million. Prior to that, the deadline from the state was March 1.

The most recent appraisal done by land owner Denise LeClair-Robbins indicated the property had a value of $5 million and she agreed to sell the property for that amount. Currently, the Franklin Land Trust, the prospective purchaser of the property, has helped raise around $3.6 million from grants, private donations, and fundraising.

“This $500,000 will certainly help that process,” said Mary Lynn Sabourin of the Franklin Land Trust.

Sabourin and fellow colleague Alain Peteroy added that there’s been no indication from LeClair-Robbins if she would take less than $5 million or not.

“We’re still working on approaching as close as we can (to that $5 million),” said Peteroy.

Peteroy and Sabourin said that they’re working on getting more money from private donations.

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