A Neighborhood Tries to Fight the Good Fight
By Mike Kirby
Selective logging by Karl Davies, Atty. Patrick Melnik's partner in a Chesterfield real estate development, began in January of l999. And maybe it was the logging and its scars that raised the temperature right away. Twenty five people showed up for the first neighborhood meeting in December, and many of them showed up at the next meeting of the Conservation Commission, where they asked that the logging be postponed. At one point a letter signed by neighbors found its way to Melnik's desk. George Kohout of Evergreen Road remembers how incensed Melnik was. He was angry that people were addressing their concerns to him, rather than to John Hanley, his brother-in-law.
"What are you doing dragging me and my wife into this business?", he told Kohout. "This is not our development. We've got nothing to do with it."
The Killam Associates of Hadley were hired to prepare plans and do the engineering. Four options were laid out. The smallest development was a 17-unit flag lot subdivision, the largest was a 36-unit subdivision. Hanley favored a 27-unit subdivision off a single cul-de-sac. As part of his development proposal, he agreed to donate 10 acres of land to the city for conservation purposes. This long narrow parcel paralleled the Beaver Brook and abutted on its western end a 3.9 acre plot of land claimed by the city's conservation commission. The two pieces would form a green belt linking Route 9 and recreational land along the Mill River.
Often city-owned parcels are small, wet or otherwise unmarketable, but
this nearly four acre plot is a valuable piece of land. Its western edge
is the old railbed that is now a hiking trail, and its northwest corner
is the beautiful stone viaduct that spans Beaver Brook and looks over
the Mill River. The land slopes up to a bluff overlooking the river and
has buildable sites on the high ground. Earlier, in November of l998,
on the recommendation of the Conservation Commission, the City Council
voted to acquire the parcel, then of unknown ownership, by eminent domain,
and appropriated $2,900 as a damages payment for the landtaking. On Dec.
9, l998, the city filed its notice of taking with the Registry of Deeds,
acting to "preserve critical views along the rail trail." more>>>