GREENFIELD – The Conservation Commission on Tuesday authorized Chairman Travis Drury to contact the mayor’s office to schedule a meeting to discuss a city council vote request to transfer an undeveloped 13-acre parcel on Stone Ridge Lane to the Commission.
With the next city council meeting scheduled for October 20 – a week after the auction date for two plots of land on Stone Ridge Lane – this would also imply a request for a further postponement of the auction.
The land, which has been privately owned for decades, contains a network of trails that the previous owners left open to the public. Concerns over the auction of the land – originally scheduled for September 22 before being postponed twice to October 13 – were initially raised by the Conservation Commission in a letter to the mayor which was drafted during a special meeting earlier this month.
At the committee meeting on September 23, Mayor Roxann Wedegartner explained that the sale of the land was a matter of returning to the tax roll “to continue to generate tax revenue”.
Wedegartner told commissioners there were several options available to them for conservation purposes, one of which would be to separate the two plots. In other words, the city could keep the 13 acres that abut Rocky Mountain Park and sell the 6 acres with the house at 87 Stone Ridge Lane.
During Tuesday night’s meeting, Drury briefed the Commissioners on the legal advice he had received from the city attorney regarding the questions they had asked at their September 23 meeting.
He confirmed that properties seized through the land tax title process can be retained by the municipality. If the city wishes to transfer ownership between departments, it would require a city council vote. However, it cannot be sold to a private entity without auctioning it.
Drury also confirmed through the attorney that the two packages can be legally handled separately, so that at least the larger package can be kept for preservation.
The two options, then, for selling a tax title foreclosure are through an open and public auction, or through Chapter 30 of Massachusetts General Law, Section 16.
“It’s a good way to sell a plot with restrictions, because then you can reasonably limit the use of the property,” Drury relayed.
Regarding questions regarding the timing, the attorney said there was “no legal requirement” for a schedule, although the city treasurer has an obligation to sell the properties of the tax title and dispose of them. put back on the tax roll.
“It appears the answers support most of our research,” Commissioner Fletcher Harrington said after Drury finished relaying the lawyer’s answers to their questions.
In recognition of the questions that have been raised over the past two weeks, Drury noted that the Conservation Commission has not acquired any conservation land since 1998.
Drury introduced Sam Lovejoy, a resident of Montague, who has worked in land conservation for 30 years. He said he was involved in “at least a dozen” municipal purchases for the State Department of Fish and Game and many others with cities.
Lovejoy encouraged the commission to pursue the option of separating the plots and transferring the larger of the two plots to the custody of the commission.
âI think the 13 acres are quite possible to become a property of the Town of Greenfield, where custody and control of the property passes to the Conservation Commission,â he said, noting that this requires a two-thirds vote of the city council. “The point is, the 13 acres are so obviously a conservation parcel, I can’t imagine Greenfield would want to spoil that parcel of land and say no to a vote.”
Regarding the 6-acre parcel with the house, Lovejoy was in favor, if possible, of going through the RFP process so that restrictions for the trails could be included.
âIt looks like we just need a little more time to figure out what we’re doing with the 6 acres,â Lovejoy said.
Before the commission agrees to schedule a meeting with the mayor, Drury said it would be important to specifically reference any responses from the tax title attorney.
Conservation Commission vice-chair Rachel Lindsay suggested commissioners be prepared with ideas and examples of possible requests for proposals to share with the mayor for the 6-acre parcel.
“I think there is a very good chance that the 13-acre item will be taken off the auction,” she added. âThere was so much public support. It would be a tragedy – and a little ridiculous – if this parcel were not added to the conservation area. ”
According to Sullivan & Sullivan Auctioneers, an open house at 87 Stone Ridge Lane is scheduled for Wednesday, October 6, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Mary Byrne can be reached at [email protected]om or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne