The members of the Planning Board agreed with Friends of the Landlocked Forest and Town Meeting members arguing that the zoning of the Landlocked Forest should be changed from general industrial to open space.
The board voted 6-0-0 to recommend to Town Meeting that members approve a warrant article on the September Town Meeting warrant on the zoning change. Member Joseph Impemba was not present for the meeting.
The vote came after a presentation by member of the Friends of the Landlocked Forest and Precinct 3 Town Meeting 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.
"Sponsors of the article believe it is important to make this change to protect the forest from industrial projects," he said.
Pearson added the forest also has benefits for the local environment. He explained the forest is habitat to many animals, birds and insects. It also, he said, helps clean the air and purify rainwater.
There was some discussion over whether or not changing the zoning was necessary. It was pointed out that because the land was purchased from the state as conservation land, it would require a two-thirds vote from both the state legislature and another two-third vote by Town Meeting before any industrial project could be approved. Chairman Paul Roth, for one, said he did not feel it was necessary but agreed in the end to leave it up to Town Meeting and voted favorably.
Pearson argued that even if the added protection of a zoning change is minimal, a vote by Town Meeting in support would indicate an interest among the members to preserve open space. If Town Meeting votes against it, he added, that would also be revealing of members' beliefs on development and open space.
Board member Paul Raymond agreed.
"I’m a well known advocate," he said. " I think open space is important and its approval would be a good message. I think we should give Town Meeting an opportunity to express themselves on open space."
Pearson also pointed out that changing the zoning to open space would not preclude any recreational projects the town might want to make in the forest.
There were also a few supports who spoke in favor of the zoning change.
"I think it is a protection for ourselves, our neighbors and our descendants to have this as open space," said Anne Coady, Town Meeting member from Precinct 7.
Resident Rosalie Blum said she fell in love with the forest after snowshoeing there with a friend one afternoon.
"We spent a lovely afternoon there," she said. "I'm very interested in preserving this."
What do you think, should the zoning be changed? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.