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Copy of letter sent to the chairman of the Community Preservation Committee

I would like to express my disappointment in the CPC’s response to learning that members of People of Ayer Concerned about the Environment (PACE) advocated that nothing was done to acquire open space in comparison to other uses of funds. The CPC has not made any apparent effort to learn more about the existing Reuse Plan and its mandate to leave one-third of the Devens area as open space, or to advocate that the Town of Ayer be given, not sold, any of the existing or new open space as part of the revision to the Reuse Plan.

At the BOS meeting on Jan. 31, one resident asked why Ayer could not be given back some of its playing fields. Ayer never really had any playing fields on Devens, but Willard Field is within our boundary. In response to the question, we learned from Mr. Montuori that, under the reciprocal agreement offered by MassDevelopment, Ayer would have to pay to use the existing fields, just like any other organization. Ayer cannot charge for the use of Pirone Park, where our fields are located, which is not exactly a fair reciprocation from my perspective.

We also heard from Paul Bresnahan that MassDevelopment isn’t going to just give us any land. How do we know that when we haven’t even asked? A new wrinkle to the plan for North Post is that Ayer will now own the open space that is developed there. Hmmm … I thought we weren’t going to own anything, and MassDevelopment wouldn’t give us any land. In addition, the 10 acres Bresnahan mentioned at the Jan. 31 meeting was 20 acres a week or so ago.

As I suggested on Jan. 31, I encourage anyone who was not here in 1993-94, which was more than half the residents in attendance at the meeting, to read the existing ReUse Plan and Chapter 498. Familiarize yourselves with it before you make any decisions. The existing plan was developed after much trial and tribulation — so much so that Lancaster opted out altogether.

You will see that MassDevelopment wants to keep those portions of the plan that inure to their benefit (e.g., the permitting authority, zoning decisions, ownership, etc.) and revise or abolish those that do not (e.g., restricting use of the airfield to commercial/industrial development, limiting the number of residential units and where they can be located, passing on the costs of providing services to the towns, etc.).

I urge PACE and CPC to consolidate their efforts once again and live up to the presentation made at town meeting that Ayer needs to use CPC funds to acquire more Open Space. That does not mean I think we should pay to obtain land at Devens. We should ask for it in exchange for our assent to some or all of MassDevelopment’s wish list items.

CPC funds could then be used to preserve that acquired open space as conservation land. (If you don’t know, much of the land on North Post in Ayer abuts environmentally sensitive land in Ayer and Shirley.) This is the message PACE and the CPC delivered to town meeting to obtain its support for transferring virtually all the remaining CPC funds into the open space reserves.

Then that land could be used for playing fields, walking paths, a nature observatory, a wind farm even, all to the betterment of Ayer. And, while we wouldn’t have to pay to use the fields, we may generate revenue to support the youth sports activities by leasing the use to others.

PAULINE CONLEY

Ayer

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