I’m afraid that I’m not a very active town citizen. And when I first heard about the plans for a new fire station, my reaction was “Wow, sounds like a lot of money, but I guess we must need it”. And I didn’t pay much attention to the location selection, believing that the town’s track record in preserving open space and the look of the town meant that a good choice would be made. It wasn’t until I saw the surveying activity going on in the field that I learned that the hay field I pass by most every day was the target. I was very disappointed, but thought it was a done deal, and the destruction of that field was the price for not paying attention.
It wasn’t until I saw Alix Chace out by the field collecting signatures that I learned that I was not the only one very disappointed by the choice of that location, and that there was some hope for saving the field. And in doing some further research in the town meeting minutes found that the strong vote in favor of the current plan was clouded by the late hour that it was taken, after many ordinary citizens had left. Subsequently I have talked with others in town, including those involved with emergency services, who feel that re-zoning away from agricultural use, and purchase of the land by the town when there is already properly zoned land either owned by or available to the town, is not a good idea. And that’s ignoring the cost and size of the planned facility, which is widely thought to be extravagant.
I can appreciate that the selection committee worked very hard to come up with a plan that would be acceptable to the town meeting, and were willing to stay very late to get the vote completed, all in good faith. But I also think that there are a lot of folks who would have stayed later and not voted in favor of the plan if they had been focused on the negative impact of re-zoning a scenic field actively engaged in agriculture, a stone’s throw from town’s center, especially when properly zoned space is available. It seems to me that our town has been quite creative and forward-thinking with resolving such issues in the past, and I hope that there are more like me who will vote against the unnecessary destruction of this field for an extravagant fire station.
One more point that I’m surprised Alix has not raised herself (that I know of), is that she has a horse barn with a riding ring where she teaches riding lessons that is just a couple of hundred feet from the proposed site. Anyone familiar with horses can imagine the impact it will have on a riding lesson, and the safety of the young rider, when the engines get called out. Having a barn and riding ring beside a hay field zoned R/A is a sensible thing; changing the zoning and building a fire station on the property pretty much destroys the suitability of the abutting property for the use it has had for years.