Jeff Waal Critiques Cohasset Selectmen’s Discussion of Land Aquisition

(Jeff Waal sent a copy of this letter that he sent to the Cohasset Board of Selectmen).

To the Board of Selectmen:

I will not be in town and therefore cannot attend your next meeting. Therefore, I would like the following to be included in your minutes for that meeting.

I watched the public comment period of the July 10, 2013 Board of Selectmen’s meeting. During that period, two residents, John Leffel of Fox Run and Keith VanEtten of Surry Drive, appeared before you to discuss the CCT’s intended purchase of the White-Cabot property. It appears that you are willing to take the opponents’ statements as the truth, even suggesting that you should talk to Town Council to determine how you can reverse the affirmative vote of the majority of Town Meeting, yet no one alerted either of the parties involved in this transaction- the White-Cabot family and the Cohasset Conservation Trust- that this would be discussed at the July 10th meeting.  The White-Cabot family’s legal representative, Richard Henderson, had specifically requested that Mr. Milanowski tell him in advance if this transaction were to be discussed at a meeting.

None of you has requested any objective evidence to suggest that anything presented by the opponents to this purchase is actually a statement of fact. Information presented to you by some of the abutters is incorrect and misleading at best and disingenuous at worst.

To begin, it has always been our intention to create access and walking trails to this property. Our application to the Community Preservation Committee states, “The Community Preservation funds will aid in the purchasing of the property as well as provide resources to create access to the property and to create and maintain walking trails for the public.” There was no misleading anybody at any time. We were completely upfront about our plans from the beginning and this information was presented to voters at Town Meeting. A copy of our application is attached to this email for your information.

During the July 10 meeting, it was stated that at least ten of our properties had no access and the speakers had a list of our properties to support their claims. However, during a mid-June email exchange with Mr. Leffel, I clarified the information on the web site. I informed him that, “Of our approximately twenty properties, only two have restricted access – Scott’s Shore and Pegram Preserve, both of which have deed restrictions. Our web site lists the access as ‘none’ for other properties because the sites are not accessible due to topography and/or other inhospitable conditions such as dense undergrowth and briars, swampy conditions or steep terrain.” To represent to you that we restrict access to half of our properties is a complete misrepresentation of the truth. Additionally, none of these other CCT properties were acquired with CPC funds from the Town.

Mr. Robert Benson proclaimed to you at your July 10 meeting that we stated in the past that the Whites owned Fox Run and actually most of Fox Run was on his property. That was true. During our initial research into this property, we were given information that suggested that Fox Run was entirely within the 50-foot strip owned by the White-Cabot family. Further research and a land survey at our expense showed that Fox Run actually crosses a few lots. But, that argument is weak. All of the properties on Fox Run, including property owned by the White-Cabot family, have easements that allow the property owner and guests the right to use the common driveway (Fox Run), “for all purposes for which streets, driveways and ways are now or hereafter may be used in the town of Cohasset,” including “for pedestrian and motor vehicle passage, access and egress”.

The Fox Run neighbors are requesting you to include in the Conservation Restriction the requirements that there be no public access and no trails. That request is completely contrary to the “Massachusetts Conservation Restriction Handbook,” published by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Division of Conservation Services. In discussing public access the handbook states that public access to conservation restricted lands is strongly encouraged by the Secretary unless there are strong reasons to preclude such access, such as endangered species habitat. All of our existing properties were gifts from generous donors or were acquired with private funds. We have not accepted CPC funds for any of our existing properties, so questions regarding access are at the sole discretion of the Trust. However, to put access restrictions on property that is acquired using CPC funds is contrary to the strong recommendations of the EOEEA.

The Cohasset Conservation Trust is a good organization and we are good for Cohasset. We have donated more than $400,000 to the town for the acquisition of open space for wildlife habitat protection, watershed protection and passive recreation. The CCT strives to be a good neighbor and maintain amicable relationships with abutters to our properties and, to date, there have been no complaints about our property management. It is unfortunate the abutters have taken an adversarial stance to the Trust’s purchase of the White-Cabot property. As a land trust and charitable organization, our goal is to conserve and preserve open space for wildlife always and the public when possible especially when public funds are being used to underwrite the purchase.

Jeff Waal, Director

Cohasset Conservation Trust


© Copyright 2013 Tanna K, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed