Open Space Recommendations to be Discussed at Conservation Commission

The report issued in July 2011 by the Open Space Task Force on Londonderry’s open spaces will be on the agenda of the Conservation Commission’s Nov. 12 meeting at the Sunnycrest Meeting Room at Town Hall at 7 p.m.
Open Space Task Force Chairman Mike Speltz asked that the topic be placed on the agenda as a workshop on open space.

“The intent is to answer the big question of how do we proceed, and we also want to make sure that the report doesn’t sit on a shelf and gather dust, “ Speltz said.
The report offers seven conclusions and recommendations. They are as follows:
• Continuing to protect open spaces.
The report notes that 60 percent of “key acreage” and 68 percent of “key resource values” have either permanent or temporary protection. Preserving the high priority parcels identified in this report and working with willing landowners of smaller parcels, with the goal of permanently protecting 39 percent of Londonderry, would tie the current fragmented set of open space into a connected green infrastructure to co-exist with built infrastructure.
Recommendations: use an outreach and education program to interest landowners with small parcels or partial parcels in the green infrastructure in participating in the stewardship of their land; develop a Partners in Conservation program with those landowners to support them in stewardship of their land; acquire from willing sellers, fee ownership or conservation easements on priority parcels identified in this report; create a competitive market by inviting offers from all the landowners; and give equal weight to adding to existing areas and opening new areas for public preservation.
The report notes that purchases should be prioritized by total resource value of the parcel and dollar cost per resource value.
• Developing a comprehensive stewardship plan for all town-owned land.
The School District, Recreation Department, Heritage Commission and Conservation Commission are each responsible for the stewardship of a portion of the town’s open spaces and for town-held easements. Many smaller properties do not have written stewardship plans and there is no comprehensive town-wide stewardship plan or a method of funding.
Recommendations: Review all town-owned properties and develop a comprehensive stewardship plan for each to define what services the town desires from each property individually and as an integrated network of open spaces, and identify recommendations to enhance natural resource protection and maintain and/or expand recreational opportunities. The plan should include direct costs and responsible parties. Parcels slated for sale or development should be examined first.
• Protecting water resources.
This is identified as the town’s most pressing open space task.
Recommendations: Update the 1990 Water Resources Management Plan to inventory water resources and provide an analysis of future needs, threats and possible protection measures; revise land use regulations to ensure that no additional development occurs in the 500-year floodplains and that new development does not add to cumulative downstream flooding during periods of extended precipitation; resume routine monitoring of the town’s surface and ground waters, following the protocol of the Environmental Baseline Study Committee; add testing for nitrogen, phosphorus, biological oxygen demand, pH and sediment load; investigate approaches to a “no net increase” policy that uses newer technology; and reduce existing impervious surface and limit its increase as new impervious surface is added.
• Offering education and outreach.
Recommendations: Begin a comprehensive outreach and education effort regarding the open space program so as to promote existing properties, describe protection methods, and educate the public in regards to open space efforts.
Topics should include: “what you can do and where;” history of the open space program; description of locally important natural resources and green infrastructure; types of protection such as conservation easements and outright ownership, and the legal, financial and taxation implications of each; how the town stewards its open spaces and easement holdings; overview of the process of acquiring properties; and locations and significance of historic and cultural features.
• Offering recreation on town land.
Recommendations: Continue to expand recreational potential on existing open space and provide opportunities for a diverse range of activities throughout town; consider a local hockey program using the West Road Fields as potential outdoor hockey rinks; and support cold weather sports with trail maintenance.
• Using land use regulations.
Recommendations: Investigate a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) ordinance to preserve sensitive areas while allowing higher densities in other zones; continue the Design Review Committee (DRC) process during site plan and subdivision review and make committee member comments more accessible to the public; and provide for committee representation during Planning Board consideration of projects with policy choices identified in DRC comments.
• Funding.
Recommendations: Implement a financial plan based on a consistent level of 2.7 percent of the town budget, the current figure, to fund protection of the priority parcels identified in this report as they become available from a willing seller; create a dedicated source of funding for stewardship activities by allocating the first increment of funding from the Land Use Change Tax to a non-lapsing stewardship fund for any purpose permitted by statute, with its allocation determined by the requirements identified in the comprehensive stewardship plan recommended under conclusion 2; and allocate the remainder of the Land Use Change Tax to the Conservation Fund to supplement the recommended bond funding, thereby hastening the implementation and reducing the cost of the Open Space Plan.

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