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Concord will not put conservation easement on Gully Hill land

Concord will neither use nor conserve its land off Gully Hill Road – at least as long as the land is being farmed.

Mayor Jim Bouley appointed a committee of five councilors this year to reach an agreement about a proposed conservation easement for the property off Loudon Road and along the Merrimack River.

That committee’s report, accepted by the council Monday night, concluded that the land’s use could not be changed as long as members of the Bartlett family are farming the property. The city now leases parts of the property to Bartlett Farm Dairy and Green Gold Farm.

Twice in the past three years the council delayed a decision on a conservation easement for the 114-acre property.

The Concord Conservation Commission had recommended an easement to protect the land, but the proposal was tabled after some city councilors raised concerns that it was too restrictive. So Bouley appointed a committee of five councilors to review the issue.

Among the other possible uses discussed by the committee: community gardens, a public park, a recreational area with playing fields or a festival space with public bathrooms and parking.

The committee, which included Councilors Candace Bouchard, Jennifer Kretovic, Jan McClure, Fred Keach and Dan St. Hilaire, began meeting in May. They reviewed ways to make the easement more flexible and allow for the possibility of a park on the property, according to the committee’s report.

But they agreed to stop meeting in October, once City Solicitor Jim Kennedy determined that the land’s use could not change as long as a member of the Bartlett family wanted to farm it, according to the lease.

“The committee’s recommendation is not to convey a conservation easement at this time and to maintain the land in its current agricultural use with the understanding that the city council would need to discuss the use of this property again if the Bartlett family stops farming the land,” the group wrote in its report to the mayor and the rest of the city council.

Keach said the council could revisit the issue in the future.

“I don’t think there’s any desire to necessarily develop that property,” he said at Monday’s council meeting. “But the discussions that we had on both sides of the whole issue is, do we limit yourselves now by putting in conservation, not knowing what possibility there may be 20 years from now?”

McClure, who serves on the conservation commission, said the land was also protected because its purchase with conservation funds required the protection of natural resources.

“So those will hold until such time that the land is purchased from the conservation fund,” she said.

If the city did wish to use the land for something that did not preserve natural resources, it would have to purchase the land back from the conservation fund, the committee found. But the five members disagreed on that definition. St. Hilaire said he felt that “active recreation” on the land could fit within the current restrictions.

“All of these things were discussed and that’s why it took so long,” he told the rest of the council.

Part of the land could be used for the proposed Merrimack River Greenway Trail along the river, and the committee’s report found that use to be appropriate.

Two unions get contracts

The city’s police supervisors and public works employees have new contracts with pay increases.

The city council approved two union contracts Monday night.

The three-year police supervisors contract has a 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase for 2014 and 2015. It will be retroactive to the beginning of this year, with a 2.25 percent increase in 2013, according to a release from the city.

City Manager Tom Aspell said the police supervisors had been without a contract since the end of 2012.

The council also approved a three-year contract with general services employees, represented by AFSCME Local 1580.

The contract will provide 2.5 percent cost of living increases for each year, and will also be in effect retroactively to the beginning of 2013.

Both unions agreed to begin paying 10 percent of the cost of their health insurance premiums. The city will only pay the remaining 90 percent for the least expensive health care plan offered; employees who choose a more expensive plan will be required to pay the difference in the premiums.

“The new contracts ensure that we will be able to continue to attract and retain strong employees, and the contracts also include the very important requirement for the cost-sharing of health insurance,” Aspell said in a written statement.

The contracts passed with unanimous votes from the 11 city councilors present at Monday’s meeting. (Councilors Allen Bennett, Candace Bouchard, Keith Nyhan and Dick Patten were absent.)

Representatives from the unions did not return messages yesterday.

Memorial Field and more

Also Monday night, the council authorized a delay in building a concession stand for Memorial Field.

This year’s city budget has $200,000 to repair the press box and build a concession stand at the field. But the press box project will cost more than expected due to water damage, according to a report from General Services Director Chip Chesley. Aspell said he recommended building a new concession stand next year, and also building new bathrooms.

In other action Monday night:

∎ The city will clear-cut trees at the Hall Street wastewater treatment center. Aspell said the trees on the property are diseased, and the area will be replanted. The harvest will cost $7,000, but officials expect the timber sale to earn more than $7,000.

∎ The council made a change to staffing at the library Monday night. The current adult services and technical services manager position will be split into two positions, and a reference librarian position will be eliminated. Aspell said the change would come at no cost to the city, and would help the library adapt to changing technology. Library Director Patricia Immen is retiring in January, and Aspell said the adult services manager is also retiring.

∎ The council amended the ordinances for solid waste disposal, which will allow Casella Waste Systems to begin transporting trash to the transfer station in Allenstown rather than the Wheelabrator facility in Penacook starting in 2015. Bouley recused himself from this vote; he has worked as a lobbyist for Casella, according to state lobbyist reports.

∎ The council accepted, with no discussion, a report on the city’s troubled parking fund. The city will now seek applications from private consultants to study the city’s parking.

Monday was the last meeting in the council’s current two-year term, and the last meeting for four councilors. Councilors Michael DelloIacono, Kretovic and Dick lost their campaigns for re-election this fall. Councilor Liz Blanchard did not seek re-election this year.

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or lmccrystal@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)

Sail hates "hicksville" - i.e. trees, grass, you know, nature. He prefers asphalt, concrete and steel. Waltham Watch wants to put a "tenting community" . . . not sure what that is. Do they mean a campground?

he means the people that came out of public schools and live by the river in make shift habitat

Gully Hill should be a mix use - marinas, waterfront restaurants, office and retail and a great river boardwalk park. This a urban setting and the State Capitol - it is pure Hicksville to have corn growing within a spit of the capitol

What about a tenting community?

classy stuff like - yurts

Nonsense. This is excellent valley topsoil that is well-suited suited to agriculture. Having farmland within sight of the capitol building may be "Hicksville" to some, but nobody's making land anymore, and good farmland should always be protected from development and sprawl.

WRONG AGAIN - as usual - DETROIT is indeed making farmland ...."Urban decay to be replaced with farmland in Detroit" google it !

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