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Pittsfield Conservation Commission Supports Acquisition of Saw Mill Property
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
05:36PM / Monday, December 05, 2022
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On Thursday, the Conservation Commission authorized a project agreement to buy the property and use $50,000 from its trust fund for the $400,000 purchase.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. —The city is nearing its final stages of acquiring over 50 acres of conservation land along the southwest branch of the Housatonic River, also known as the Saw Mill property.

On Thursday, the Conservation Commission authorized a project agreement to buy the property and use $50,000 from its trust fund for the $400,000 purchase.  

The acquisition is supported by local and state funding.

"We are really excited about where we're at," Park, Open Space, and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath said.

"We have signed purchase and sale agreements and in fact, we put a deposit down on the sale as well. We're simply waiting for all of the funding to come into place and a critical piece of that funding is the Conservation Commission allocation to the project."

Pittsfield will own the land through the commission as a property protected under Article 97 of state law, which grants the right to a clean environment and authorizes the Commonwealth to acquire conservation easements.

Conservation agent Robert Van Der Kar pointed out that half of the $50,000 will be covered by a mitigation fee that was collected from the Taco Bell project on Dalton Avenue some time ago.

"We accepted money for that in order to be able to do a project like this," he said. "So we've been waiting a long time to use that money, and I couldn't think of a better mitigation project than this one."

The land consists of three parcels totaling 52.3 acres with 1/4 mile of frontage on the Housatonic River. They are bound by Barker Road and Velma Avenue to the south and to the east are bound by railroad tracks and Industrial Drive.

There is also a small portion on the north side of the river at the end of McKinley terrace.

Within the acreage are areas of core habitat mapped by the state's Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program.

For over a decade, the city has aimed to permanently protect these lands as part of the continued development of a greenway of protected land between Clapp Park and the Pittsfield Airport.

Conversations with property owners picked up again in 2020 and 2022.

Last month, the Community Preservation Committee supported a $50,000 out-of-cycle application for the acquisition.  

It has also received a $280,000 Local Acquisitions for Natural Diversity grant from the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

The city must cover the remaining 30 percent of costs, consisting of $20,000 in capital funds that will be voted on by the City Council this month.

"This is a wonderful property, it’s going to make a lot of people happy," Commission member Thomas Sakshaug said.

 

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