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Conway panel backs $100,000 to match South River grant

Recorder/Peter MacDonald
The grant is $212,500 and would be used to address flooding and erosion along the South River after Tropical Storm Irene inundated the town center last year. The total project cost is $354,166. The town is required to match $100,000.

Recorder/Peter MacDonald The grant is $212,500 and would be used to address flooding and erosion along the South River after Tropical Storm Irene inundated the town center last year. The total project cost is $354,166. The town is required to match $100,000.

CONWAY — The Conway Community Preservation Committee has recommended using $100,000 in town community preservation funds to match a flood mitigation grant for the South River.

The Planning Board has also recommended the Selectboard accept the state grant and support the project that would lower the floodplain on the former Rose property off Shelburne Falls Road to address storm flooding and erosion.

The flood mitigation grant is one of several ideas for the 11-acre cornfield, the fate of which has become a hot topic in town. It is the one proposal that has the biggest backing of the townspeople and the one furthest along. Other proposals for the property include a multi-use municipal complex, senior affordable housing, and soccer fields.

Townspeople will be asked to approve the use of the Community Preservation Act funds at a special town meeting on March 18.

The Community Preservation Committee will hold a public informational hearing on the recommendation and others on March 6 at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall.

Although the Community Preservation Committee usually waits until the annual town meeting in May for residents to vote on different proposals, the committee is holding an early meeting to beat the state deadline for matching the grant in April.

Chairwoman of the Community Preservation Committee, Janet Chayes, said the committee recommends the project because it meets one of the criteria CPA money is designed for — open space restoration.

According to state rules, CPA money can only be used for protecting open space, providing affordable and senior housing, preserving historic assets and creating recreational land.

There is about $370,000 in the town’s CPA account.

The Franklin Regional Council of Governments helped the town and the Friends of the South River, a private organization focusing on the restoration, protection and ecological integrity of the South River, get the grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection in the fall.

The grant is $212,500 and would be used to address flooding and erosion along the South River after Tropical Storm Irene inundated the town center last year. The total project cost is $354,166. The town is required to match $100,000.

There are several issues along the South River, including a lack of pools for the flooding water to go, sediment buildup and a straight river flow. A straight flowing river gains strength and speed, resulting in erosion and threatened natural habitats.

The grant would help fund the construction of underwater structures designed to relieve the power of the river’s flow and allow it to spill onto a floodplain on the former Rose property during big storms. The underwater structures would also help alleviate erosion on four nearby properties.

At the March 18 special town meeting, the Community Preservation Committee plans to also ask townspeople to approve an increase to the CPA surcharge from 1.5 percent to the maximum 3 percent with the first $100,000 of property value exempted, as allowed by law.

The townspeople would then have to ratify that vote in the May annual town meeting.

The recommendation would also be on the agenda on March 6.

This rate change would assure that Conway receives a 100 percent match from the state. Projections based on Fiscal Year 2013 values show a $15,000 total CPA increase for all Conway taxpayers. But the state match would have grown by $38,000, according to Chayes.

“This is a clear monetary advantage for us. CPA funded projects enhance our community,” Chayes said.

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