North Pond warrant articles being brought to special town meeting

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SOUTHWICK – Supporters of saving the open space land adjacent to Congamond’s North Pond have established a petition in an effort to raise the money to preserve the 146-acre property.

Michelle Pratt, a Southwick resident who supports the North Pond land preservation, started a petition that already has well over the required 100 signatures from voting residents in town. There is a minimum of 100 signatures from the town’s voting residents in order for a warrant article to be drafted. The warrant article would see if the town would bond the remaining money needed to preserve the land.

The Select Board set the date for the special town meeting on Tuesday night. (Photo by Greg Fitzpatrick)

Of the $5 million target, there is roughly $1.7 million left to raise, but if the $500,000 allocated from the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) account passes at a special town meeting, there will only be $1.2 million remaining.

At their meeting Tuesday evening, the Select Board announced that the vote on whether or not to allocate the $500,000 from the CPC’s account will go to a special town meeting on March 19 at 6:30 p.m. at the Southwick Regional School. If the Select Board allows the petition for the remaining $1.2 million to be drafted as a warrant article, it will also be present at the special town meeting on March 19. Both warrant articles will require a two-thirds majority vote.

Representatives of the Franklin Land Trust were at the meeting on Tuesday and were pleased with the $500,000 going to special town meeting. Alain Peteroy of the Franklin Land Trust noted that they have until March 31 to let the state know how much money they have in commitments for preserving the 146 acres as open space.

“I’m very confident given the way the residents of Southwick have shown up,” said Peteroy when referencing the community support for keeping the land from development.

The state is invested in saving this acreage as they’ve already awarded two grants. In November 2016, the Massachusetts Departments of Energy and Environmental Affairs as well as Fish and Wildlife awarded the Franklin Land Trust two grants totaling $1.4 million. One of the grants was a land grant for $400,000.

The warrant article for the $500,000 was made possible due to the CPC voting in favor of the Franklin Land Trust’s request on February 14. Previously on January 31, the CPC voted on the request and it was a 4-4 tie, which caused the request for the $500,000 not to pass.

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