PLYMPTON– On Thursday, Sept. 20, Plympton voters turned out in unexpectedly large numbers in support of a special Town Meeting article that authorized the selectmen to purchase a 133-acre parcel off Prospect Road for $800,000 as conservation land.
The article was the only one on the warrant and it passed with near-unanimity. It required a two-thirds vote of Town Meeting, and only a handful of residents in the standing-room only gymnasium at the Dennett School voted against the article.
Mark Russo, who sits on the Board of Selectmen and chairs the Community Preservation Committee, moved the article on behalf of the selectmen, and spoke passionately about the acquisition.
He noted, “The project went through all the usual CPC project reviews,” and announced that the CPC and selectmen both unanimously recommended the article.
Linda Leddy, of the Open Space Committee, said she thought it appropriate that a special Town Meeting was voting on such a “special” project. She said that there will be no impact on the tax-rate.
The subject of the property, that was enrolled in the Chapter 61A tax relief program, came before the Plympton Selectmen when a bona fide purchase and sale had been signed. Under 61A, the town has a right-of-first-refusal, to take over that purchase and sale, which the selectmen voted unanimously to exercise in July.
The total amount of money authorized for the project by Town Meeting was $820,000. Of that, $10,000 had already been placed as a deposit, and $30,000 was a contingency, standard to all Community Preservation Committee projects in town.
The remaining $790,000 came from the Community Preservation Fund Open Space Reserve in the amount of $22,000 and $298,000 from the Community Preservation Fund Undesignated Fund Balance.
A sum of $470,000 will be borrowed in short-term municipal bonds, that will be paid for by selling up to three small lots with frontage on Prospect Road. Private donations, of which $93,000 have already been raised, will cover the rest, said Leddy. If more than $175,000 in donations is raised, fewer lots may have to be sold or the money can be used for other purposes, including future maintenance of the preserve, said Russo, in a phone interview following the meeting.
Brian Wick, the Town Moderator, kept the mood light. He joked that the peace officer, Doug Mazzola, “would not be needed.” At one point, due to so much applause and enthusiasm for the article and those that spoke in favor of it, he stated that he didn’t want anyone to be uncomfortable and asked the audience to hold their applause. Their excitement couldn’t be contained, and they did not comply with the request.
Several residents spoke in favor of the project, including Frannie Walsh, of West Street. “When we take from nature we have to stop and give back,” she said.
One resident, Harry Weikel, who sits on the Board of Health, had a septic-related question which seemed to be answered by Leddy to his satisfaction, and another resident, also on the Board of Health, spoke against the article.
Arthur Morin, of Granville Baker Way, who several times complimented all the hard work that had gone into the process so far, said he did not feel that Town Meeting should vote “Yes” for the article until there was something in writing guaranteeing that tax-payer money wouldn’t be spent on the preserve if the lots couldn’t be sold or donations weren’t raised.
“I don’t want one cent in taxes [to pay for the project]. That’s my concern,” he said.
But Leddy replied that the lots were desirable, according to real-estate experts. “People feel the lots will sell,” she said.
When Wick, only 40-minutes or so into the meeting, asked if there was any further discussion, and there was none, he called for a vote, and those in favor all rose their hands high in the air. When he called for a vote from those opposed, the residents who rose their hands did so with markedly less enthusiasm.
Thunderous applause filled the room following the vote, lasting for several minutes.