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?