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Landlocked Forest Rezoning Fails by Slim Margin

An article to change the zoning of the Landlocked Forest from general industrial to open space failed to garner the necessary two-thirds majority.

Burlington Town Meetings members took up a warrant article proposing changing the zoning of the Landlocked Forest from general industrial to open space. Though the majority of members voted in favor of the change, the measure failed to get the necessary two-thirds majority. The vote was one of the articles in the 2012 September Town Meeting on Monday. 

The article was written and supported by the Friends of the Landlocked Forest and the effort to make the zoning change was spearheaded by member Monte Pearson. 

Pearson said the Landlocked Forest is an invaluable asset for the town, one used by many residents for recreation and as a chance to get out in nature, and should be protected. The zoning change, he said, would limit what could be done on the property to buildings such as recreation facilities, playing fields, cemeteries and other public facilities. The open space zoning would prevent any outside developers from using the property for projects. 

The opposition to the zoning change was more about leaving options open for the town rather than a rejection to open space. Several Town Meetings members said they felt that making the zoning change would hamstring the town if in the future a developer came with a "win-win" project. In Massachusetts, in order for open space zoning to be changed, the switch must be approved by a two-thirds majority by the state legislature. 

"If sometime in the future, say 30 to 50 years from now, we want to sell part of it, we won't be able to," said Precinct 3 member Paul Valleli. 

Precinct 6 member Thomas Killilea agreed. 

"Right now we have the opportunity for someone to make an offer," he said. "We can say no. But if the forest is made open space, no developer will ever want to even approach the town so if want want to develop it we will have to seek them. I don't want to shut the door on an opportunities, especially if a developer comes to us with a 'win-win' plan." 

Planning Board member Paul Raymond disagreed, saying that the zoning change was a show of support for open space. He said the town currently has a lack of open space compared to many communities. 

"This change shows an intent to protect the forest," he said. "I think it would really benefit the town." 

In the end Town Meeting members voted 57 in favor of the change to 41 against. Though the majority were for the change all zoning changes require a two-thirds majority to pass. 

What do you think? Do you agree with the decision or would you have preferred the Landlocked Forest zoning be designated open space?

 

Burlington Resident September 26, 2012 at 11:37 AM
Our protection is already there against developers. They don't own it, the town does. So the notion that developers will build here is false. I agree with some of the TMMs’, we need to keep our options open.
Sean Fowler September 26, 2012 at 01:15 PM
That's silly. Paul Valleli and Thomas Killilea already are considering that there could be a win-win project proposed by developers. However, if the plan is to, in any way, develop the land, then it's taking that land from the Landlocked Forest, no matter what else may be promised. The town may get taxes from the development, which is financially better for the town, but developing one of the few forests left in Burlington is always going to be Lose-Lose. If the precinct members can't see that, perhaps they should go outside for a peaceful walk and take in some fresh air to clear their minds, if they can still find fresh air and a place to walk in peace.
Adrian Goneau September 26, 2012 at 01:41 PM
This is very dissappointing. For those of us who value open spaces and enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, xcountry skiing, etc...it leaves uncertainty and the possibility that If a developer comes in with a high enough offer, we will once again be fighting to preserve this space.
Thomas Lienhard September 26, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Down go the trees, down goes the value... For those living in or contemplating moving to any community. Why always behave like " we're for sale"?
Carrie September 26, 2012 at 02:50 PM
I think the town meeting members voted correctly. This land belongs to the whole town and decisions on what should, if anything, be done with it should go to the whole town. After all we are responsible for that land.
J. Parker September 26, 2012 at 04:55 PM
"Win, win" ? What could possibly be a "win win" with more development and traffic in the water resource area?! Huge mistake !
TOM KILLILEA September 26, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Mr. Fowler, it is amazing how you know what I'm considering when you have never discussed this subject with me. Your clairvoyance is remarkable. First of all my wife & I hike at least once a month, how about you? Secondly, the property cannot be developed unless town meeting approves it and then the state legislature must also with a 2/3 majority. As I stated at town meeting if we had rezoned the land then we would have put future generations at a disadvantage to do something with the property. Developers look at properties that are suitable for their needs. An open space designation would eliminate many of them from considering Burlington. Let's listen to any & all proposals if they come our way. We can always say no and have done so in the past.
Matt Frost September 26, 2012 at 08:09 PM
I love the forest in its present state too, but it already is protected due to lack of vehicle access, plus it is owned by the town, so any future proposal to sell this land for development would still have to pass muster with Town Meeting. Thus, rezoning the forest to OS at this time would have no incremental impact on its preservation. The restrictions of OS zoning may not be as protective as is commonly assumed because OS permits the razing of trees for playing fields, parks, cemeteries, etc. Also, suppose a time comes, which I hope never will, when the Town needs to raise cash for something unforeseen. Burlington should want to retain its option to possibly sell one or a few of the 20+ parcels to raise that cash. The market value of this land probably would be much lower zoned as OS than if the current zoning is retained. In conclusion, rezoning to OS offers no additional protection of the forest while possibly limiting the Town’s future economic options, as well as having other potential unforeseen consequences. Thus, TM was correct in rejecting the proposal to rezone the forest to OS at this time. Matt Frost, TMM pct. 3
george doble September 26, 2012 at 09:23 PM
George Doble, a 40 year Burlington resident This vote was very shortsighted. This allows the developers to continue to knock on our door with their unsubstantiated promises of "win win". TMMs had chance to protect this valuable open space for generations to come; shame you you who voted against this. A few years ago when the developers approached the town to develop this land everyone spent a lot of time & effort listening to their hollow promises. The town continues to be financially well managed; we do not need or should not need developers money at the expense of shrinking open space that only further strains the town's resources. /s/ A very disappointed & long time resident...........
Matt Frost September 26, 2012 at 10:53 PM
George, I feel the same way about protecting the forest as you do and am delighted you want to keep the forest protected. However, unfortunately, the OS zoning would not provide the protection you are seeking and could actually open the door for trees to be taken down for other reasons, at the Town's whim and discretion. The Town owns this land, and with an OS zoning, the Town could do who knows what, potentially without review by TMM. Please research and think about this some more. OS sounds great, but it would not do nearly what you and others apparently think it would do to protect the forest. Please do your own research into the OS zoning restrictions, which are somewhat limited, and I think you will then understand why the more informed members of TM (apparently not the majority of them, but more than one-third) voted against the proposed OS zoning. Best regards. Matt Frost, TMM pct. 3

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