Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Saving Open Space: Land Sale Points to Need for Partnership in the Public Interest

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- Although the sale of 27.5 acres of Burlington College land to developer Eric Farrell forecloses the possibility of preserving all the former Catholic Diocese property as a neighborhood park, the fact that the college continues to own about 6 acres, as well as the Orphanage building, provides Burlington with another opportunity to find a balance between development and open space.

The former Orphanage, now Burlington College.
Photo by Greg
As I said at the Save Open Space Summit on Jan. 21, we need a partnership in the public interest between conservation groups, local education institutions, private capital and local government – led by engaged public officials -- to save the college, find compatible projects and land uses, and keep most of the remaining land open. The Conservation Board has already expressed an interest, and the mayor himself has voiced a willingness to preserve “key attributes,” including a garden and some forest. I urge him to promptly call the stakeholders together. We can still do much better than a one acre path to the shore.

Local leaders can have a positive impact. Two Members of the City Council also sit on the Burlington College Board of Trustees. Although bound by confidentiality on certain matters, that does not prevent them from briefing the Council and the public. This should happen now, so that residents and BC students know what lies ahead for the school. Preserving and growing this 42 year-old college, a valuable alternative to traditional higher education, is not just a private matter. And it ought to be a public priority.  

The recommendations in the Declaration of Open Space being circulated locally can help to guide the way. It asks the Mayor and City Council to honor the city’s Municipal Development Plan, Climate Action Plan and Open Space Protection Plan by initiating a broad community discussion about the future of the remaining land – including NPAs, the Conservation Commission and the Parks and Recreation Commission. I support this, and also their recommendation to use the Conservation Fund and work with land trusts and others to keep the remaining land within the public domain.

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