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Conservation transaction could be postponed as Londonderry officials debate stewardship

By April Guilmet
Union Leader Correspondent

July 22. 2014 9:53PM

LONDONDERRY — As conservation commissioners prepare to seek the town’s blessings in acquiring an open space property valued at a $250,000, councilors agreed Monday night they’d be hesitant to authorize the transaction.

Council vice chairman Jim Butler noted that the commission doesn’t currently have an official plan when it comes to maintaining town-owned conservation land, which deeply concerns him.

“We’ve already been asking the Cons Com for a stewardship plan for the town forest and quite frankly, we haven’t gotten one yet,” Butler said. “So I’m not in favor of spending any more money until we have a program in place that we can refer to.”

Conservation Commissioner Mike Speltz, who noted that the site in question wouldn’t be publicly revealed until a deal was finalized with the seller, said he came to Monday’s meeting hoping to address the council’s concerns.

Speltz said he and commission co-chair Deb Lievens would return to the council in the near future to submit a final proposal. He called the proposed purchase “a bargain sale or possible donation,” for the property in question.

Funds for the transaction would come from Conservation Commission monies that have already been set aside for the town’s open space program, Speltz said.

“I don’t want your concerns over stewardship to deflect from this great opportunity,” he told councilors.

Council Chairman Tom Dolan said the town was currently working with consultant Stu Arnett to explore policies and procedures managing town-owned properties.

Councilor Joe Green said he felt the town’s priorities should focus on property upkeep, stewardship and maintaining sites for passive recreation.

Butler, who serves as council liaison to the heritage commission, said he wasn’t able “to budget or even discuss this until I see a stewardship plan.”

He noted that the town forest area, which surrounds Londonderry Town Common, has been blighted by bittersweet and other invasive plants in recent years and the problem has yet to be managed by the town.

Councilor John Farrell agreed, noting that other town-owned conservation sites have “sat dormant for the past ten years.”

Speltz assured councilors that the commission was, in fact, working on a plan.

With a draft of a town recreation guide currently in the works, the commission is making ongoing efforts to outline ways to keep up town properties in the process.

Speltz said the recreation guide should be completed by early fall. “Right now we’re trying to put some numbers on all the things we need,” he added.

Butler said he was “impressed” with the progress being made on the recreation guide thus far.

“It seems to be moving right along,” he said. “But in my opinion, if we’re putting out this guide we need to make some rules to go along with it.”

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