The Concord City Council recently approved as much as $364,500 to purchase a set-aside easement for 76 acres of land on Stickney Hill Road known as Maplewood Farm.
According to officials, in 2009, the Conservation Commission began working with Fire Rivers Conservation Trust to set aside part of the land in an easement after the owners of the property recently passed away and the heirs decided that they didn’t want to live at the farm.
The farm was a dairy farm until the mid-1960s when it closed but the family still maintained the fields and used them to harvest hay.
The family was considering putting the land on the market but decided to see if they could protect a large portion of the land from development. The approval of the conservation easement will allow the family to sell the house, barn, and land, to a buyer who is interested in owning and maintaining the entire farmstead, according to city documents. Four acres would remain outside of the easement. The future buyer would be able to use the land for agriculture but would not be allowed to subdivide the property.
The value of the conservation easement was appraised at $680,000, which would come from the city’s Conservation Fund, which has about $3.2 million left in it after the council set aside $5 million into the fund in 2004. The home and farmland was appraised at $1.14 million.
Officials from the Conservation Commission and Five Rivers Conservation Trust began a process to find grant funds to purchase the land, along with the city. Neighboring residents on Stickney Hill Road also verbally committed to convey another 37 acres of open space.
A number of residents spoke in favor of the easement at a hearing on Oct. 11, including abutters, others in the neighborhood, open space advocates, and recreational advocates. Hope Butterworth, the director of The Friendly Kitchen, also agreed to set aside land that she owns to the conservation easement.
However, one city councilor, J. Allen Bennett, voiced concern about the proposal. He called the parcel “beautiful” and said it deserved to be preserved. But Bennett was concerned about when Five Rivers would stop acquiring property for conservation.
According to Bennett, 22.3 percent of land in the city was already held for open space or protected easements. Another 40.5 percent of the city was in current use, he said, while another 26.2 percent of land in Concord was tax exempt.
“I guess I would ask, how much is enough?” he asked.
Members of the Concord Conservation Commission, Chairman Christopher “Kit” Morgan and James Owers, the board's vice chairman, said that it was unknown when they would stop acquiring property for conservation since it is not known when private landholders might want to divest their property. St. Paul’s School, for example, has more than 2,000 acres. Other land, like land owned by the state, could also become available.
In the end, the council voted 14-1 to approve using city funds to acquire the easement for Maplewood Farm.