Greenfield Conservation Commission seeks custody of 13 acres on Stone Ridge Lane

  • Conservation Commission Chair Travis Drury’s map showcasing 87 Stone Ridge Lane and the adjacent 13-acre parcel that are going up for auction on Oct. 13. Screenshot

Staff Writer
Published: 9/29/2021 5:17:32 PM

GREENFIELD — The Conservation Commission authorized Chair Travis Drury on Tuesday to contact the mayor’s office to schedule a meeting to discuss a request for a City Council vote to transfer an undeveloped 13-acre parcel on Stone Ridge Lane to the commission.

With the next City Council meeting scheduled for Oct. 20 — a week after the auction date for two parcels of land on Stone Ridge Lane — this would also involve a request to further postpone the auction.

The land, which has been privately owned for decades, contains a network of trails that previous owners have left open to the public. Concerns about the land’s auction — originally scheduled for Sept. 22 before it was postponed twice to Oct. 13 — were initially raised by the Conservation Commission in a letter to the mayor that was drafted during a special meeting earlier this month.

At the commission’s Sept. 23 meeting, Mayor Roxann Wedegartner explained that selling the land was a matter of getting it back on the tax rolls “to continue to produce tax revenue.”

Wedegartner told commissioners there were several options that might be available to them for the purpose of conservation, one of which would be to separate the two parcels. In other words, the city could keep the 13 acres that abuts Rocky Mountain Park and sell the 6 acres with the house at 87 Stone Ridge Lane.

During Tuesday night’s meeting, Drury updated commissioners on the legal advice he had received from the city’s attorney regarding questions they had come up with at their Sept. 23 meeting.

He confirmed that properties foreclosed on through land court tax title process can be retained by the municipality. If the city would like to transfer the property inter-departmentally, it would require a City Council vote. It cannot, however, be transferred to a private entity without auction.

Drury also confirmed through the lawyer that the two parcels can legally be handled separately, so that at least the larger parcel can be retained for conservation.

The two options, then, for selling a tax title foreclosure are by an open and public auction, or by Massachusetts General Law Chapter 30, Section 16.

“This is a good way to sell a parcel with restrictions, because then you can reasonably limit the use of the property,” Drury relayed.

As for questions surrounding the timeline, the lawyer said there was “no statutory requirement” for a timeline, though the city treasurer has an obligation to get tax title properties sold and back on the tax roll.

“It looks like the answers backed up most of our research,” commissioner Fletcher Harrington said after Drury finished relaying the attorney’s responses to their questions.

By way of acknowledging the questions that have been raised over the last two weeks, Drury noted that the Conservation Commission hasn’t acquired conservation land since 1998.

Drury introduced Montague resident Sam Lovejoy, who has worked in land conservation for 30 years. He said he was involved in “at least a dozen” municipal purchases for the state Department of Fish and Game and many others with towns.

Lovejoy encouraged the commission to pursue the option of separating the parcels and having the larger of the two parcels transferred to the commission’s custody.

“I think the 13 acres is totally possible to become a property of the town of Greenfield, where the custody and control of the property passes to the Conservation Commission,” he said, noting that requires a two-thirds vote of City Council. “The fact of the matter is the 13 acres is so obviously a conservation parcel, I can’t imagine Greenfield would want to mess up that parcel of land and say no to a vote.”

As for the 6-acre parcel with the house on it, Lovejoy was in support of, if it’s feasible, going through the request for proposals process so restrictions for trails could be included.

“It seems like we just need a little more time to figure out what we’re doing with the 6 acres,” Lovejoy said.

Prior to the commission agreeing to schedule a meeting with the mayor, Drury said it would be important to specifically reference all of the tax title attorney’s responses.

Conservation Commission Vice Chair Rachel Lindsay suggested commissioners be prepared with ideas and examples of possible requests for proposals to share with the mayor for the 6-acre parcel.

“I feel there’s a really good chance that the 13-acre article is pulled from auction,” she added. “There’s been so much public support. It’d be a tragedy — and just kind of ludicrous — for that parcel not to be added to the conservation area.”

According to Sullivan & Sullivan Auctioneers, an open house at 87 Stone Ridge Lane is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 6, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne




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