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Identifying wetlands  next step for  Rose property

Recorder file/Paul Franz
The “Rose Property” on Shelburne Falls Road next to the South River near Conway Center.

Recorder file/Paul Franz The “Rose Property” on Shelburne Falls Road next to the South River near Conway Center.

CONWAY — A state Department of Environmental Protection staff member has advised Conway residents to determine where the wetlands are on the Rose property before they decide what to do with the land.

Mark Stinson, a circuit rider for the state department who provides 106 towns with regulatory advice, met with Conway residents last week to let them know in general terms what they can and cannot do with the riverside 11-acre cornfield off Shelburne Falls Road, based on environmental regulations.

“Get the boundaries locked in. I’ll come up after that and we can do another meeting,” Stinson said.

The Planning Board can request a wetlands delineation on behalf of the town. The Conservation Commission must then approve it.

The meeting was arranged by Conway Conservation Commission Chairman John Gates.

“The goal from my perspective is, before any projects move forward, to get the facts as to what the site conditions might be,” Gates said.

The Rose property has six environmental resource areas — the bank of a stream, the bank of the South River, the nearby wetlands, the land under water, the floodplain and the 200-foot riverfront area.

In 2006, the town exchanged a house for the Rose property. Over the years, many ideas have been researched and proposed for the property, including affordable housing, soccer fields, a town highway garage, public safety complex and most recently a municipal complex.

The townspeople have become energized to determine the use of the property after the Board of Selectmen were discovered to have been planning a municipal complex combining town offices, public safety offices and a highway garage. The selectmen now say the plans were originally drafted by the former Garage Committee, and that they would not have moved forward with the project without the input of the townspeople at a town meeting.

The property is zoned agricultural and the town has only one chance to change its use. It is also home to a rare species of turtle protected under Natural Heritage.

The Planning Board, the town group that has taken the lead in determining and recommending a use for the property, plans to discuss getting a wetlands delineation as the first step toward nailing down what can be done on the land at its next meeting, Planning Board Chairwoman Diane Poland said.

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