CHATHAM — More than an open space purchase, the proposed acquisition of more than four acres of undeveloped land on the shore of Goose Pond is being described as a chance to freeze in time one of the town’s last unspoiled freshwater shorelines.
With support from the Compact of Cape Cod Conservation Trusts, the town’s Land Bank open space committee is recommending that town spend $1,275,000 to buy three adjoining undeveloped lots on the north side of the pond, fronting on Old Queen Anne Road, from the Atwood family. The parcels are the last three undeveloped lots on the pond, and together they cover 4.17 acres.
The Atwoods plan to retain a 5.17-acre parcel to the east that contains three rustic cabins, but are negotiating with the Chatham Conservation Foundation to sell the rights to limit future development there. Immediately to the east of that land is 28 acres held by the Conservation Foundation. Elsewhere on the shore of the pond, the town owns 73 acres that it purchased in the 1980s.
Land Bank Open Space Committee Chairman Jack Farrell said that together, the three lots are valued at $1.59 million based on the owner’s appraisal, or $1.41 million based on the town’s appraisal. The total assessed value of the lots is nearly $1.84 million. The Atwoods have offered to sell to the town for $1.275 million.
At the May 13 annual town meeting, voters will be asked to authorize spending that amount using existing funds from the Land Bank open space committee account; no borrowing would be needed for the purchase. The committee is also seeking a state grant of up to $400,000 to help defray the cost of the purchase.
The committee uses a rating system to help prioritize its open space purchase recommendations, and this property was high scoring because it fulfills a number of priority criteria, Farrell said. In addition to having water frontage, the property contains core habitats and provides a buffer to wetlands. It was also identified as a priority site because of its risk of development.
A small parking area would be built on an already-disturbed part of the parcel, and a trail would run along part of an old power line right-of-way leading to a bench overlooking the pond, Farrell said.
Farrell said the purchase represents a rare opportunity to preserve the shoreline of Goose Pond, which, at 41 acres, is the largest freshwater pond in the town. It is unimpaired by phosphorus pollution and remains relatively unspoiled, he said.
“The reason for that, simply, is that people – in particular the Atwood family – over the years have gone to great lengths to set aside property for conservation purposes so it would not be developed to its maximum potential,” he said.
“It’s generally accepted in the real estate community that the reason we have the high land values that we do is because of the wonderful job we’ve done protecting our open space and our embayments,” Farrell added.
Selectman Cory Metters said that while he supports the work of the committee, he does not support this purchase.
“The vast majority of this area has been protected, and we’re talking about three viable house lots,” he said. “I would like to see these kept as open market residential properties.
“I know that there are three off-Cape families who wish that there would be more houses there, but we’d prefer not to see any additional houses there, for the benefit of the entire community,” Farrell said.
The remaining four selectmen spoke in favor of the purchase and voted to recommend that town meeting approve it.
“It’s just a really nice, and an accessible, piece of property,” board member Shareen Davis said. She praised the committee for its work with the Atwood family.
“It’s beautiful land. It will help preserve Goose Pond in perpetuity,” Selectman Jeffrey Dykens said.
If approved by voters, this land purchase may be the last one made under the Land Bank, which expires next January. Farrell said his group is seeking to be changed to the Chatham Open Space Committee, with the role of advising the town on potential open space purchases.
“I think it’s a great finale,” Selectmen Chairman Dean Nicastro said.