Selectmen last night voted to recommend an article appropriating about $15,000 for a study of the 66-acre
Selectmen also recommended against a citizen's petition to turn the Oak Hill property over to the Conservation Commission.
The town owns the parcel and it has been sitting vacant for a number of years. Town Meeting must approve any changes to the land.
George Merrill told selectmen he supports turning the land to conservation and asked selectmen not to take a position on the articles to "level the playing field." Selectmen decided to vote their opinion anyway.
"By putting article 22 before article 23 you put my article, which has 330 signatures, at a disadvantage because you’re spending money and we’re turning it over," he said. "I can rectify that at Town Meeting by changing the order. But if you recommend 22, and you don’t recommend article 23, that is not a level playing field. That is not right."
Selectman Jim Lane said the town's Master Plan and the Open Space and Recreation Plan both call for studies to be done on the land. The Conservation Commission approved the Open Space and Recreation Plan, Lane said
"We’d be doing a disservice to the residents of the town ... if we didn't carry it through," said Lane.
"I think it makes sense to go forward with the study," said Selectman Pat Wojtas.
"It's unfortunate you did that," Merrill said after the vote. "But you put yourself in a bad position. This isn’t going to look good to people. Common sense will tell you (the land can be used for) ball fields, housing, roads, why spend $15,000? Walk the land and you'll see."
Lane said Merrill - nor members of the Master Plan Committee - could have been sure what the study will say.
"You don’t know that ... If the study concludes it's best served to go into conservation, that will happen, it can happen at another time, it doesn't have to happen now," he said. "If (the land goes to conservation) it eliminates possibilities of doing anything else. It's harder to turn it around one you go forward with that decision."
Selectman Jon Kurland agreed.
"If (the study) comes back and says conservation is the best use, I'll be fine with it, it's not a big deal but right now to put it into conservation control and not know what potential uses are is a disservice to the town," he said.