As reported in the Chelmsford Independent this week, a Chelmsford landowner is refusing potentially lucrative opportunities to sell his 13 acre forested land holdings for housing development between Westford Street and Bridge Street near the center of town.
Dr. Paul Canniff and his wife hold the land in trust and have a forestry restriction on it which has to be renewed every 10 years. The Canniffs plan to renew the restriction on the “pristine” land in 2014, despite talk that the land would be valuable to 40B developers.
The land has intrinsic value as watershed and wildlife habitat. Given the virtually nonexistent services the town has to provide, the taxes paid by the Canniffs improve the fiscal health of the town. Their resistance to development contributes to everyone’s quality of life and to the town’s fiscal solvency.
It’s too bad that public officials on the Affordable Housing Committee, the BOS and the Planning Board don’t value of open space the same way as this civic-minded private citizen. The AHC “Plan,” approved by both the BOS and the PB, calls for dozens of acres of several town-owned open space parcels (including “Oak Hill”) to be developed into high-density 40B and 40R housing over the next few years. The plan isn’t just idiotic, it’s genuinely harmful to every aspect of the community: our fiscal health, the quality of life for residents, and the dwindling natural environment.
Dr. Canniff obviously deserves a big “thank you” from all of us as residents of the community.
And town officials deserve the bum’s rush for not only creating a plan to do the opposite of Dr. Canniff with our communally owned assets, but for lying about it as long as possible. As little as two weeks ago, Phil Stanway of the Oak Hill Study Committee stated that “nothing is decided” and Fran McDougall echoed that “This has nothing to with how can we get in there, what can we put in there.” But there’s that pesky “Development Production Schedule” right in the Affordable Housing Plan along with supporting prose for hundreds of units at Oak Hill and other open spaces. Planning Board member Colleen Stansfield repeated the canard that there are no plans to build again this week, stating that the Housing Plan is “just a document we have to produce to give to the state,”and “there are no plans to build.” The Hillside Gardens 40B, still tied up in court, relied heavily on exhortations in the last Affordable Housing Plan to “encourage” residential development on commercially zoned lots. The Affordable Housing Plan is not a meaningless document at all, and the BOS and Planning Board should not have approved what is essentially a plan to give away millions of dollars in town owned assets to benefit developers at the expense of the community; in short, institutionalized graft.
Roland Van Liew