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Conway selectman forms group to develop Rose property plan

Recorder/Paul Franz
The Rose property off Shelburne Falls Road in Conway.

Recorder/Paul Franz The Rose property off Shelburne Falls Road in Conway. Purchase photo reprints »

CONWAY — After years of debate over what to do with a piece of town land known as the Rose property, Conway may be taking another step closer to developing a final plan.

Selectman Rick Bean has put together a group of representatives from many of the town’s boards and committees to develop a proposal that would work for the former 11-acre cornfield located off of Shelburne Falls Road.

According to Bean, the property was acquired seven years ago after a vote at town meeting allowed the town to exchange a house and storage shed on Fournier Road for the property, which was owned by town resident Greg Rose.

The property, which sits within a floodplain, has been eyed by various boards and committees in town for a variety of projects, including affordable or elder housing developments, a community septic system, soccer fields and a public safety complex.

Bean said the group will be formed as an ad-hoc committee that will include members of the town’s Select and Planning boards, the Housing, Open Space, and Parks and Recreation committees, and the Friends of the South River, a local group that is working to preserve the South River, which runs through Conway and Ashfield.

“Forming this group is a final attempt to get all the interested parties together to make a plan to propose to the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program,” said Bean, referring to a state program under the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife that must approve any changes to the land.

The group’s members will include Bean, Housing Committee member Pixie Holbrook, Michele Turre of the Open Space Committee, Planning Board member Dave Chichester and Bob Anderson, who will represent both the Parks and Recreation Committee and the Friends of the South River.

“It took a while to put it together, but everyone signed on,” Bean said. “I’ll be asking the Selectboard to officially appoint the members at our next meeting.”

Bean said the group will use a proposal from the Planning Board to create a community park on the property as a starting point for their discussions. According to the proposal, the park would be called the Conway Riverbend Park and would include a gazebo for gatherings and musical events, a momument to memorialize loved ones, and a limited number of gravel parking spaces.

The proposal says the park would be part of a “unifying plan” for the property that would include affordable housing projects and a flood mitigation project along the river, which experienced extensive flooding during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.

The flood mitigation project is part of the South River Restoration project being carried out by the Franklin Regional Council of Governments. In 2013, voters approved spending $100,000 of Community Preservation Act money to fund the project, part of which includes lowering a portion of the property by two feet to give water a place to pool during flooding. The project would also place weirs and rock deflectors in the river to steer water away from the riverbank.

“The proposal would be our starting document, and our hope is that by the end of the summer we will have a plan for how to use this property,” said Bean.

The proposal says that other, larger projects, such as the septic system or soccer fields, would be incompatible due to the environmental constraints on the property.

“We’re trying to come up with a plan for the property that is low impact and meets the needs of the Conservation Commission, the town and Natural Heritage,” said Planning Board Chairman Joseph Strzegowski. “We want to get this together and bring it to them to say ‘This is our plan,’ and find out if it’s acceptable or not.”

Bean said the group’s meetings will be open to the public and he encourages community members to attend and see how the project is progressing.

You can reach Tom Relihan at: trelihan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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