To the Editor:
In a few days, Easton residents will begin to see “final vote” on South Park signs cropping up around town. With your forbearance, please allow us to explain why.
Last May, at a well-attended town meeting, Easton residents voted to place a conservation restriction on the remaining ten acres of South Park, or that portion that had not been purchased by Aspetuck Land Trust (comprising about 20 acres). You are now being asked to vote again –on December 13.
The May vote directed the Board of Selectmen to create a final agreement which would stipulate various land use restrictions at South Park. The Board of Selectmen has now approved that final form of restriction, after consultation with our town’s outside counsel, and other parties, including Citizens For Easton. It is this final agreement that the town is being asked to certify on Dec. 13, at Samuel Staples Elementary School.
The final proposed land use restrictions are as follows:
— Consistent with the May vote, the final terms state that there will never be any new structures upon, or commercial use of, the property.
— It further ensures permanent access for the benefit of the public, while allowing for non-impactful uses such as hiking and picnics but prohibits impactful uses such as motorized vehicles, bicycles, and drones.
— It allows for some farming activities, subject to the approvals of the Agricultural and Conservation Commissions.
— It allows for maintaining paths and placing park benches.
— It leaves open the possibility of some other limited uses for the benefit of the Town, but makes them subject to town will through a further Town meeting.
— The restriction will ensure that there is never any development on the property, while any use for athletic field or events would require a Town Meeting and in no event would it include any permanent structures.
— In response to public comment, this also allows the existing tenants to continue their use. At the end of those uses, the buildings can be used for Town purposes or other noncommercial uses. The buildings may not be expanded.
— Finally, this agreement does leave open the possibility of other limited uses “for the benefit of the Town.” An example would be using the existing building for a town department office. Nevertheless, those too would be bound to terms of the general agreement, specifically ensuring no development of any sort, or commercial use.
Citizens for Easton fully supports this agreement. A “yes” vote in fact closes a long and at times fraught chapter in our town’s recent history. Fifty years ago, South Park came to represent Easton’s vision of the future. Were we to remain a town that embraced open space while supporting a mandate to preserve and protect the public water supply? Or would we turn our back on our natural heritage, in heedless pursuit of development and growth?
CFE in fact was established 50 years ago because we believed our open space was too precious to squander, and certainly far too important for the manifest health of the watershed. South Park was to be our first stand, and it certainly won’t be the last. But let’s close this particular chapter together. Please vote “yes” on Dec. 13.
Verne Gay, President
The Board of Citizens for Easton