MWDN: Barn Hollow open space “compromise” rejected by OSPC

by beth on October 4, 2013

At last night’s meeting, the Open Space Preservation Commission meeting decided to support accepting the Barn Hollow open space parcel at Monday night’s Special Town meeting. This is in lieu of accepting the compromise proposed earlier this week by Selectman John Rooney.

Rooney’s proposal allowed residents of the Barn Hollow neighborhood to continue using the contested property. The town would still receive an open space parcel from developer Kevin Giblin of Brendan Homes. But the parcel would be one to two acres from another site. Since the details need to be worked out, pursuing the compromise requires delaying a vote on the matter to another town meeting.

According to The Metrowest Daily News, OSPC members voiced concern that delaying a decision would lead to indefinitely resolved issues and troubling precedents. 

Town Meeting in 2006 indefinitely postponed acceptance of a problematic piece of open land on Killam Farm Lane. Nothing has happened with the land since.

Commissioners on Thursday said they were also worried about the precedent such a deal could set.

“I think there are many other property owners in town who have very similar situations,” said member Freddie Gillespie, reasoning that they would rightly want to expect the same treatment as those on Barn and Nipmuc lanes.

“I don’t think coming up with a fix for one without looking at the whole is the right decision,” she said.

To read MWDN’s full article, click here.

To read past coverage of Barn Hollow open space issues, click here.

What do you think about this dispute?

Do you care enough to go to the Special Town Meeting on Monday night and cast a vote? Would it be for or against accepting the parcel?

1 Tim Martel October 4, 2013 at 10:27 AM

I’d like to understand why an agreeable management plan cannot be developed between the property owners and the town (i.e. planning board). Is it truly a case that the open space must remain “natural and wild”? If so, please point me to that law.

I don’t see how the current compromise can proceed until the developer specifies exactly where the open space is to be moved. That said, it could be problematic on more than one level:
1. The point of surrounding the development with open space is to ensure a rural feel to the town. Moving it somewhere else defeats the original purpose.
2. Once you set this precedent, the town is legally bound to offer the same deal to all other property owners in town.
3. Barn Hollow is a million-dollar home development. So the idea behind this compromise is to give this open space back to these home owners, and to move their open space requirements to…a less prosperous area in town?

2 John Butler October 4, 2013 at 6:52 PM

Advisory Committee voted unanimously on Tuesday night to support the article as written so as to transfer title of the land to the Town, not to support any motion, should one arise, for indefinite postponement. What follows is my personal and unofficial summary of the reasons for this conclusion. Regarding the discussion before the vote, I can say that although one member of the open space committee was in the audience there was no appreciable input to the decision, which arose solely from the considered judgment of the eight members in attendance.

A very brief explanation of the major reason would be that these dozen modestly encroaching parcels justify only the simple establishment of a “good neighbor” policy with the abutters, and not the dangerous precedent of attempting to change an existing subdivision agreement, after the subdivision is complete, and transferring title to encroaching abutters. The problem is that the Town has 300 open space regions protected in various ways all over, and a great many encroachments. These dozen or so are a very tiny part of the whole situation and probably not the most serious cases. We appropriated $60,000 last year to research all the deeds. We should not set the precedent of this extreme approach of title transfer when we will probably encounter some really difficult cases in the full portfolio. If your neighbor planted some shrubs in your yard, would you think that the reasonable modest solution is to give them your land? Maybe instead you would decide to say, “Nice shrubs.” There is no “adverse possession” against municipalities, so we can just be nice neighbors to the abutters, say something that includes “Nice shrubs”, and save ourselves legal rigmarole and ill-considered precedent at the same time. Town Meeting should now accept the land long legally designated as destined for the Town. Then maybe some cooling off would be in order.

3 Nora England October 5, 2013 at 12:02 PM

I agree with Tim and John. It is point well taken bout the danger of breaking the rules to please some homeowners of some upscale houses. As it was mentioned, it will set serious precedents, and encourage the town homeowners to help themselves and just cross the boundaries and occupy portions of the open space and other conversation lands. They may think it is “reasonable” and request a solution from “reasonable people”. Similarly, the new occupiers want only to continue to use the extention of their backyard for their children to play.
Other residents who are not homeowners would believe the town has a double standard one for the rich and connected and another for the mainstream resident.
How can be possible for the open space committee to agree on the demands of those homeowners of Barn Hollow? The Committe have a deed with well defined bounds and they ask them to japoridize their legal documents and change everything including bylaws, mission,and integrity of open space areas and wetlands. it is the most reasonable for the homeowner to give up the encrochments. If it is huge encroachments, it is not acceptable to add few hundred thousand dollars on the value of their properties. If it is minor encroachments, it is not acceptable to create precedents, adopt double standard, as well as break the By-laws. It is easier for every one to respect the boundary line and enjoy what he legally owns.

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