Content submitted by Juliette Mount. If you would like to publish a letter to the editor, email [email protected]
To the Westford Board of Selectman,
Just a few weeks ago, our National Parks Service turned 100, ensuring that future generations will enjoy the thrilling experiences of nature and wildlife, history and culture.
Similarly, with great pride, the Massachusetts’ APR program began as an act of the Legislature in 1979, and was the first in our nation. It has since been a model upon which many other states have built their programs. Through this APR program, Massachusetts has permanently protected over 800 farms and a total land area of over 68,000 acres. Over 300,000 total acres across the state regarding all conservation land.
Those of us who were here at that time that these APRs were written, know that they were written with clear intent, and I quote from APR 3:
“…to perpetually protect and preserve agricultural lands…maintain lands in agricultural use,…and ensure affordable resale values of agricultural land.”
In August, 2016, the Task Force carefully reviewed APR 3, as well as 1 & 2. Until then, some had not realized why this proposal is so far out of alignment with the APRs.
You’ve received letters of concern from the community, many voices have been raised, legal opinions stated in direct conflict with some of Mr. Corbo’s guidance on these matters, so you recently realized more information was needed.
Now, in your packets, you have copies of letters from both the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture and the Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition, among others.
Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition, state clearly in their letter to you dated September 22, 2016:
Further, the Mass Department of Agriculture states in their letter to you dated September 22, 2016:
- We know that the proposed building does not in any way resemble the intended use or purpose like the farm stand currently on the property, and is not included as a Retained Right. The developer’s request to add it reinforces the point that it is not an agricultural use.
- A restaurant would not protect or preserve this land, and in stark contrast, there would be virtually nothing left of agricultural value on APR3 as a result of this project. This is echoed in both letters previously mentioned.
In addition to all of this, we have also called into question the process that was followed/or rather not properly followed, and recognize gaps in that, regarding not only the sale but the overall stewardship of this land. Mistakes have been made, I assume largely due to people who had good intentions that were not fully informed. So, more recently, you realized a second opinion was in order, to ensure the guidance was well-informed.
And now you have now heard from the most knowledgeable resources on this subject, including the State Department of Agriculture, and Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition, and several of the best legal opinions in the country. So, it is time to stop this.
I respectfully request that we:
- Remove, permanently, Article 1 and any proposed changes to the APRs from the warrants.
- Discontinue all further use of Town funds and our hard-earned tax dollars regarding any activities intended to assist promoting development of this land, and instead redirect that energy and those resources to enforce the APRs and their intended purpose, to protect this farm land as is your legal charter.
- We also then look forward to see Mr. Alphen follow through with his commitment to withdraw Article 2 from the, Warrant, upon removal of Article 1.
I have raised my son and daughter to do what’s right even when it is not easy or convenient, and I assume you have done the same. It may take a bit of extra effort, and the right people with some creative problem solving to turn this around, but we start by removing this from the warrant tonight, and permanently, properly, saving this farm as intended, and have something to be proud of, a legacy to leave behind in perpetuity – which means permanently, forever – as intended.
As we approach the 300th anniversary of this town in just over a decade from now, I hope we can look back at this time and have something to be proud of.
Boston Rd. Westford, MA