The Wanderer - Mobile Edition

MARION SELECTMEN'S MEETING

Selectmen Reject Conservation Restriction

Marion Board of Selectmen

By Jean Perry

They wanted more time to consider the conservation restriction proposed by Rid Bullerjahn, heir to 105 Allen's Point Road, but ultimately members of the Marion Board of Selectmen did not change their minds about rejecting the request on December 16.

The board struggled with a decision back on December 8 and continued the matter until they could refer to the Marion Open Space Acquisition Commission for a recommendation and gather tax revenue information about the property from the assessor's office. Neither, however, was able to sway selectmen toward a positive vote.

"I believe open spaces should be open to the public," said Selectman Jody Dickerson, a sentiment that carried over from the last meeting. "If we had public access, I'd be the first to sign on to it."

Selectman Stephen Cushing could not get past his perceived unfairness of the deal.

"I think the benefit to the applicant is greater than that of the public," stated Cushing. "I just can't, in good conscience, approve this the way it is. The scales are just tipped too far in the direction of the applicant."

Board of Selectmen Chairman Jonathan Henry wanted to explore other options that would balance the benefit to both the town and to Bullerjahn, as well as neighbor Doug Watson, who was cooperating with Bullerjahn to further the size of the land under the conservation restriction. Henry also hoped for a way to mitigate tax revenue loss from the pending conservation restriction.

Bullerjahn addressed the board, saying he had no problem with including public access in the agreement, and asked if including the language would influence their opinion.

"It would strengthen the case," said Henry.

"It isn't that we're seeing more benefit from the town," said Bullerjahn. "I was a little taken aback," Bullerjahn said of the board's perception of his benefit from the arrangement.

Henry said the board has endured harsh criticism in the past for conservation restrictions that promised public access but failed to honor the agreement.

"I don't want to close the door to this," said Henry, "but I'd love to see strengthening the public access." He said he liked the idea, but it was not compelling enough for him to approve.

"I'm sorry you feel that way," said Bullerjahn.

Accompanying Bullerjahn was Mark Robinson, who said Bullerjahn's alternative of a deed restriction to preserve the land to honor his late parents' wishes would expire in 30 years, leaving the property open again for development.

At that, the selectmen voted unanimously to deny the conservation restriction.

The next scheduled meeting of the Marion Board of Selectmen is December 30 at 7:00 pm at the Marion Town House.

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