Liza Walker of the Vermont Land Trust presented a conservation easement draft for the town-owned Eaton parcel to members of the Warren Select Board at the April 10 meeting. The Warren Conservation Commission first discussed the easement as a part of the Eaton Forest Management Plan last September.
Town officials requested that the Vermont Land Trust prepare a draft conservation easement that outlined the uses of the property, restrictions and timber management.
Located near the Warren School, the property has many conservation qualities, according to Walker; the parcel provides trails on the property and is the start of the path that will eventually extend to Moretown.
The Conservation Commission originally contacted VLT to draft an easement that would protect the property for recreational and educational uses. Walker presented a preliminary map and documents to show the area proposed for conservation as well as areas to be excluded from the easement.
The exclusions include the area adjacent to the Warren Skate Park that would allow the town the opportunity to use the area by leaving it out of the conservation easement. Walker suggested that town officials walk the area to better assess the needs and goals for the town-owned parcel.
Select board member Bob Ackland asked why the town should put an easement on the property. Walker said the easement was intended to protect town-owned forests in The Valley and that it provides a layer of protection on the property and its resources.
A few years back, the town circulated a questionnaire to residents regarding town-owned properties; the majority of responses indicated that Warren residents wanted to keep the Eaton parcel conserved.
The town purchased that parcel from the Eaton family for $130,000 and it was originally intended to serve as a site for affordable housing. Select board member Anson Montgomery inquired about the financial and legal advantages of the town conserving the parcel.
Walker said there would be no tax advantage, and legally the town is free to sell that property; if it were sold, the easement would stay with the parcel.
The main reason, she said, was to conserve the property and recreational uses it provides. Select board chair Andy Cunningham asked about the role of the planning commission in the conservation process.
Planning commission member Craig Klofach said the planning commission has no direction in the process but has concerns about losing the development rights to the town-owned parcel. Klofach said that it is possible to define an exclusion zone on the parcel that would still allow the town rights to develop the property.
Cunningham suggested that members of the select board, planning commission, conservation commission and Walker walk the property. Town officials deferred the discussion to the planning commission to look ahead for other uses before proceeding with the easement.
The next meeting of the Warren Select Board is slated for Tuesday, May 8, at 7 p.m. at the Warren municipal building.