City closes on purchase of conservation land in Broken Ground area
Concord now owns 270 acres of conservation land in the Broken Ground area.
The city closed this month on the purchase of open space off Curtisville Road and Portsmouth Street, where residents have spent decades fighting development proposals.
The conservation commission will now work to plan public hiking trails on the property, said Senior Planner Becky Hebert.
That work will begin in early 2014, she said, and will include a public meeting with East Concord residents.
“The area’s already heavily used by residents in East Concord for hiking, hunting, outdoor recreation, and the conservation commission is interested in getting their feedback as to how they’d like to see trails and parking laid out,” Hebert said.
In August, the city council approved bonding $975,000 for the purchase. The conservation commission paid an additional $50,000 from the forestry trust fund in place of allowing the previous owners to hold a timber sale.
“It’s very gratifying,” said Kit Morgan, chairman of the conservation commission. “It’s been a long time coming and it’s been a high priority for the (conservation commission) for many years, and we’re very happy about it.
The city’s newest conservation purchase is only a portion of the entire Broken Ground area, where developer Barry Stem proposed 400 homes, a golf course and a fitness club in the late 1980s on 1,400 acres of land. The 270 acres purchased by the city this month was the site of a controversial plan for 87 homes and a road. The property owners got approval in 2006 from the city’s zoning board, and received planning board approval in 2008. Neighbors spent years battling the plans for the so-called Whispering Heights development, and even took their fight to Merrimack County Superior Court. The court upheld the zoning board’s decision, but plans stalled as the property owners sought a developer to build the homes.
Owners of the three adjacent properties, Links Realty Trust and Brian and Larry Bollinger, offered earlier this year to sell the land to the city. Links Realty Trust belongs to Meisner Brem Corp., which had marketed the properties to developers with an asking price of $2.4 million, according to real estate listings. (Hampton investor William Hoag still owns hundreds of undeveloped acres in the area.)
As the new conservation plan went before the conservation commission and city council this year, residents praised the plan and spoke about the land’s wildlife, ledges and wetlands.
East Concord resident Gail Page, who has fought against development in the Broken Ground area, said yesterday that she is relieved to hear the city closed on the purchase.
“It has been a long struggle to get it to this point, and we’re grateful now that the conservation commission has led the way in making this happen, and the city council, and we’re looking forward to helping with trail making and maintenance,” Page said.
Morgan said the land already has several trails.
“But I think we want to just develop maybe a more formal trail system that will have signs and maybe traihead kiosks and things like that so it will be more accessible to people,” he said.