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Council renames Whalerock land Charlestown Moraine Preserve

CHARLESTOWN — The 75-acre Whalerock property has been renamed the Charlestown Moraine Preserve. Town Council members on Tuesday unanimously approved the name change, which was proposed by Councilor Daniel Slattery and Conservation Commission Chairwoman Lillian Arnold.

Also on the agenda was the formation of a committee to prepare a management plan for the property, which the town purchased in August for $2.1 million, using money the town had raised in an open space bond.

Town Council President Thomas Gentz had proposed an ad hoc committee, comprising one member each from the conservation, planning and parks and recreation commissions; two members of the community; two Town Council members; the town administrator; and any conservation groups interested in conservation easements and designing trails on the property.

Slattery suggested that the Conservation Commission would be best equipped to prepare the management plan, making a new committee unnecessary.

In an Oct. 23 letter to the council, Arnold explained the commission’s priorities and concerns for the property, and pointed out that in the past, the commission had been responsible for drafting management plans, which were then presented to the council for approval.

“That is the process,” Slattery concluded, before making a motion to hand over the preparation of the management plan to the commission.

Gentz said he had no objection. “All I care about is saving the land. I have no pride of authorship over the ad hoc committee, as long as it comes back to the council and we understand it,” he said.

But in the end, the council was unable to vote on Slattery’s motion. Town Solicitor David Petrarca pointed out that only items that were on the council meeting agenda could be voted on. While the ad hoc committee proposal was on the agenda, the conservation commission was not, and therefore, the vote would have to be tabled until the next council meeting.

“Since you’re not creating an ad hoc, you’re deferring to another one, and that falls outside of my recommendation,” he told the council.

Slattery withdrew his motion.

The town wants to preserve the land, which borders King’s Factory Road and East Quail Run, as open space, which will in turn protect valuable wildlife and migratory bird habitat as well as a fragile watershed. The purchase put an end to a legal battle that began after developer Larry LeBlanc sought to build an affordable housing project on the property. When that plan was rejected, LeBlanc, through his company, Whalerock Renewable Energy LLC, proposed in 2010 to build two large wind turbines. The Town Council at the time supported the project, but the council’s leadership changed after the 2010 election, and LeBlanc, the new council, and residents in the area had been squabbling over the project ever since.

Gentz said he was pleased to get the ball rolling on a management plan. “All I wanted to do was get the process started to have a management plan drafted and look at conservation easements. So this is a way to get the process started, and I’m thrilled,” he said.

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