Oak Hill Study Committee Hears Advocates for Land Use

Conservation Commission, Boy Scouts, other groups vie for land use.

The Oak Hill Study Committee met last night to discuss the l—a 66-acre parcel owned by the Town of Chelmsford. Oak Hill is located in North Chelmsford near the current Deep Brook conservation land. 

The needs for Chelmsford have run the gamut: from the site of a solar park, to space for a dog park, or even simple conservation land.

During the meeting, the committee read into the record a letter from Chelmsford Housing Authority that said they had no plans for developing Oak Hill into affordable Housing. That letter can be read as a PDF to the right.

The committee saw presentations from several individuals during their meeting in support of various uses for Oak Hill. Ken Dews spoke before the commission to petition for the land to be accessible to the town’s boy scouts for overnight camping trips.

“Chelmsford does have a very large, active Boy Scout presence,” he said. “To have a local, convenient place to camp out to learn skills in the woods would be a big boon.”

Currently, many Boy Scout troops in Chelmsford travel to Carlisle for camping. Dews believes Oak Hill can remedy the time spent traveling.

“Having a local (area) means you (…) don’t have to make a big commitment and travel long distance. From what I’ve seen of the Oak Hill parcel (…) I do think it would be suitable for camping.”

Committee member Phil Stanway was concerned with open fires and any infrastructure the Scouts might need on site. Dews assured the committee that the Scouts had fire safety training and had little to no additional needs other than the land.

“The kids in scouting are trained in the proper creation of fire and how to put it out,” he said. “As long as you have a responsible group of people using the woods or in the woods, you’re less likely to have people who are doing things that shouldn’t be done.”

Also presenting before the commission was David McLachlan, Chairman of the Chelmsford , advocating for the land to be used as conservation space.

According to McLachlan’s presentation, Chelmsford is among a group of towns in the commonwealth that dedicate the least percentage of total town land to conservation. Chelmsford’s conserved land accounts for 6.2 percent of total land at around 900 acres. McLachlan believes this number should be about 66 acres higher.

“It is my firm belief that everyone in this town needs unencumbered conservation land,” he said. “It provides a change from the rapid pace of everyday life (…) It’s just the kind of thing where you can go out there and get away from the world.”  

McLachlan also told the committee that North Chelmsford currently only has 16 acres of conservation land in the area of Oak Hill.

“We did talk about the need for more open space and conservation land for residents of North Chelmsford,” he said. “I would just remind you that the land that we have set aside over the years for conservation is on the low side.”

One key issue with the Oak Hill property is that of accessibility. McLachlan said that parking and a means of egress could come by way of Swain Road near the DPW’s salt shed. These details, however, are still preliminary. Best case scenario, McLachlan said he would like to see the land linked with the current Deep Brook conservation land.

McLachlan told the committee that using Oak Hill as conservation land would "benefit a section of town that's been short-changed."

“This is a beautiful piece of land, there’s no question about it,” he said. “This is the kind of asset that Chelmsford I think could really utilize as conservation."

Mike Combs May 28, 2012 at 11:52 PM
Phil, the price of using my real name is being dragged into legal proceedings by Philip Eliopoulos. Not long ago if you used your real name then Fran McDougal would look up your home address and threaten to have people come talk to you about your position. Not everyone is willing to go through that.
Phil stanway May 29, 2012 at 08:51 AM
Yes Mike I 100 % agree Phil Eliopouls is responceable for all your troubles, the national debt, eastern standard time, the tides going in and out, the seasons changing. Everyday we must think of a new way to warn the world thank you I almost forgot to do that today.
Townie May 29, 2012 at 11:35 AM
There is a small, but very vocal, bunch in this town and if you disagree with them, they are all over you. They are nothing short of bullies! Phil, your last comment to Mike is ridiculous! With all the vacant office buildings in town, why did Phil E. need to build that "in your face" monstrocity? He has single handedly caused a major division in town, but brought out the true colors of many.
jtalexander May 29, 2012 at 12:34 PM
Phil, I have to agree, and your last comment in response to Mike only proves the point. Disagree with our town manager or various people on the BOS and the "usual suspects" come out in droves to look at town directories annd shout you down. Mike has a point and your response was silly. As far as the building, I do not blame Phil E as much a I blame the town manager and the rest for allowing a perception of inside dealing to occur. Phil just took advantage of the situation.
Phil stanway May 29, 2012 at 12:45 PM
Again I would invite anyone interested to open space to come to an Oak Hill Meetin . as the turn out has been very low. Ask any questions. Send a letter be part of the process.
jtalexander May 29, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Phil, Typical, ignore the obvious. The point is not the Oak Hill Meeting, it is the culture of insiders and bullies that keep people from wanting be get involved. Everytime I think about it, I see snide comments like yours and decide it is just not worth the time.
Mike Combs May 29, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Eliopoulos is deposing me. That means a day out of work, a drive to Boston, and hours digging up every email I've exchanged that mentions 9 North Road and other subjects, public or private. There's a real cost to publicly expressing my political views in disagreement with you and others. I'm a Town Meeting Rep and so I don't post anonymously, but I entirely understand why other people don't want to put themselves through the wringer. (And, for the record, I don't blame Eliopoulos for the seasons changing.)
Phil stanway May 29, 2012 at 05:13 PM
Mike, I know about your suit it is one of many that has been filed. None of them are from the town but from a private citizen. Fran has a right to defend herself with any person she wishes. The suit has nothing to do with the town only two private parties. Asking for e-mails is wrong on so many levels but when one party does it the other has to. all these suits are silly and a waste of time and money. They serve no one and hurt many. The first are going to court and hopefully they will be ended and the town can return to normal. I think we can both agree on that.
Vivian Merrill May 29, 2012 at 05:31 PM
JT-Although I understand your frustration, please don't think every single committee or town group is an "insider or bully". There are a lot of unsung people that no one ever hears about doing volunteer work that benefits the town-as you get to know people, they are not as imposing as they may seem at first. I would still encourage anyone who wants to get their toes wet to consider working with groups like various energy conservation/recycling groups, the Middlesex Canal Commission or the Cultural Council. Or even groups like Table of Plenty or something through the library. I do work with the Holiday Decorating Committee, and I can say we'd love to get more help and input from anyone who looking for ways to get involved with Town activities.
jtalexander May 29, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Vivian, I do get involved and have volunteered many times in the past. I have, at times, thought about doing more. The problem is people like Mr. Stanway who think they have all the answers bully people with snide comments. This board is well populated with this type of person. He is not alone, the type who because they are involved think that they have a monopoly on what is right. When someone disagrees they run to the voter records and attack. This keeps me as well as others, I would guess, from getting even more involved. I will provide my community service in other ways.
16candles May 29, 2012 at 06:11 PM
I have to agree with townie and JT. This town is full of a bunch of bullies and frankly a bunch of dullards. It is time for others to step up and push out this rif raff. This is a town not a bingo club. Serious business needs to be handled by working professionals. The problem is that many who are involved are ones that do not work and have too much time on their hands.
16candles May 29, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Stupid people are powerful in numbers. Time to disband the ole gang.
Mike Combs May 29, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Do we need professionals instead of volunteers to go against powerful developers? We have some terrific volunteers and Chelmsford has benefited a great deal from their time and skills. But I wonder if we wouldn't be better off if some of the key positions were paid professionals with the appropriate skills and also directly accountable to the taxpayers. When businesses go up against the planning or zoning boards, they bring a professional lawyer to represent them. But how many on the planning board have professionally studied the law in this area? Do we get outmatched and outmaneuvered?
Tim Miranda May 30, 2012 at 01:38 AM
Hi Mike - How would a paid professional be directly accountable to the taxpayers? Elections? What would their mission statement and goals be? Should they be town residents? What would we pay them? What is their profession? Zoning law? Open space law? Construction planning? Since they are professionals, it's possible that their decisions at times would be counter to the wishes of a majority of taxpayers - would that be okay?
Mike Combs May 30, 2012 at 12:42 PM
I guess it's hard to be more directly accountable than directly elected, so that's what I get for thinking aloud. My goal for some change would be to retain direction from neighborhood representatives with support by professionals answerable to them. Currently, volunteer boards sometimes seem to be underpowered compared to the lawyers against them.
Mike Combs May 30, 2012 at 01:06 PM
Phil, I think it's misleading when you say all the lawsuits are from "a private citizen". Though the core group of volunteers never discuss it, Eliopoulos has also filed a suit, and I'm ensnared in it. Somehow Phil imagines himself a victim and that justifies him rifling through my email. That said, I'll be happy when all these lawsuits (and the new fire station and sorting out what to do with the old fire station lot) are behind us.
Sue Carter May 30, 2012 at 03:36 PM
I said I wouldn't respond again but I did want the public to know that there are professionals who live in town volunteering on Boards. I am a professional cival engineer and am the town engineer for several local towns as well as work for private developers. I have a lot of knowledge of the land development issues - drainage, processes, writing legally defensable decisions etc. I am on the Planning Board with two attorneys, one of which developed some property. We also have a realtor. The Board of Appeals have 2 attorneys which is great since their processes have more legal issues. The town does have an engineering department as well as planners so there are paid professionals on staff. Land Use Boards can hire outside consultants at the applicant's expense to help them in reviewing projects. It's up to other professionals to volunteer for town boards and for the people to elect them. Keep in mind that lawyers and engineers have night meetings for work, may have conflicts with existing/potential clients and may not want to get involved given the current political climate in Chelmsford.
Barney May 30, 2012 at 03:49 PM
Sue yet you still struggle to connect the dots on a regular basis.
Sue Carter May 30, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Mike Combs May 30, 2012 at 04:36 PM
I've only attended a handful of planning board meetings but I've been impressed at how many details have to be managed and how adept some of our current volunteers are. We're lucky to have them. I'd say they have a winning record but even a few losses are painful and permanent. Now, while building is slow, is the time to figure out how to improve.
Anonymous Coward May 30, 2012 at 04:49 PM
I have to agree Barney. It seems that Sue is always not seeing the forest for the trees or being penny wise but pound foolish. What did she know about 9 North and when did she know it? Come clean Sue and connect the dots.
Krista Perry May 30, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Please keep conversations here on topic. Thanks.
Paul May 30, 2012 at 09:29 PM
Open space should also take into consideration wildlife habitat.
Phil stanway May 30, 2012 at 11:05 PM
Paul, Habitat is something that is considered on all Open Space. Some is set aside just for wild life in town and the rest the trail systems have been reduced and moved to minimize open space/ trail ratios. Sites like the Lime quarry have had the amount of trails cut in half. IF Oak Hill goes to conservation their plan states no new tails. again I would say come to a meeting let people know how you feel ask questions.
Townie May 31, 2012 at 12:29 PM
A realtor and lawyer who developed land? Sounds like lots of opportunity for plenty of "conflict of interest" issues i.e. 9 North Road for instance! All you have to do is drive through town at certain hours of the day and experience the gridlock to know some very poor decisions were made. I'm not psychic, but I predict it gets worse with the location of the new firestation! You can have all the civil engineer training in the world, but you can't teach common sense! That's what seems to be lacking here!
jtalexander May 31, 2012 at 01:06 PM
I agree with Mike, Phil E. has gotten away with some of the same things that when RVL does them, he gets slammed. Guys like Phil S. and others like him forget one thing, just because we are not buddies with Paul and the rest of the "cool gang" that we as tax payers and voters somehow have no rights.
Oreo May 31, 2012 at 11:39 PM
That's because RVL is not in "THE CHELMSFORD CLICK"
Tim Miranda June 01, 2012 at 01:55 AM
I've got find out how to sign up for this click (or is it "clique", I always forget). Why can't normal election cycles be used to solve RVL's concerns about 9 North, Oak Hill, or whatever? If the Oak Hill study and outcomes are going the way the voters want, let's unelect the bastards, right? Why disenfranchise voters like me who just want to be able to vote during normal election cycles and not have the legitimate outcomes questions by an off-cycle recall that games the system by playing the odds about petition sentiment and low turnout for off-cycle voting dates? If the land use in chelmsford isn't fitting the needs of the voters, let's get the right people into office and change things. With actual regular elections, campaigning. Not recalls and lawsuits. Because regular elections should just work. Right?
Paul June 01, 2012 at 02:49 AM
I like to remember how the town use to be when I was a child. Chelmsford can never be that town again. When Fran talked about growth she simply gleamed over the fact the population has not risen recently, but ignored the statistics on construction and the loss of open space. It is that logic, lack of voter interest, and simply greed that will eventually lead to less open space in Chelmsford. If there is money to be made the land will be lost. I voted my heart to have change in Chelmsford, but it just didn't go the way I had hoped.
Townie June 04, 2012 at 12:20 PM
There is definitely a "clique" in town and if you disagree with them publicly, you get slammed and ridiculed. Elections should work, but only about 1/3 of the town comes out to vote. RVL didn't do so bad in the last election. I hope he runs again and I wish we had more like him. He's not afraid to take the "clique" or "crony's" on!


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