Selectmen Approve Conservation Restrictions To Protect Water Supply

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Groundwater protection , Conservation , Harwich

Harwich news.

HARWICH — The Harwich Conservation Trust is working with the Compact of Cape Cod Conservation Trusts to put in place two conservation restrictions on properties located in the zone two of Contribution Wellhead Protection Areas to the town’s public drinking water supply.

The properties are located in sensitive resource areas and are adjacent to protected conservation lands. One parcel, 6.65 acres on the northwest side of Hinckley’s Pond, is owned by Jacob F. Brown. That property is set back off the pond and adjacent to a cranberry bog. It is located in a Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program area considered a critical natural landscape.

The other parcel, 3.52 acres in East Harwich, is owned by Judith B. Miller. It is located east of Church Street on the north side of Bay Road, off Lady Slipper Lane, and is adjacent to the 49-acre Pleasant Bat Woodlands owned by the Harwich Conservation Trust.

Michael Lach, Executive Director of the Harwich Conservation Trust, and Mark Robinson, Executive Director of the Compact of Cape Cod Conservation Trusts, went before the conservation commission last week seeking support for the restrictions. Lach said approving the restrictions will help the property owners in donate the land to the Compact.

Lach said both properties are 100 percent within the zone two for wellhead protection and are prime areas for wildlife foraging, nesting and shelter. Lach said the conservation of these properties supports and reinforces the protection of public drinking water supply.

The restrictions require the support of the board of selectmen and the state Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs for approval, making the property owners eligible under the state’s Conservation Land Tax Credit Program for up to a $75,000 tax credit.

Conservation Commission Chairman Brad Chase wanted to know what role Orenda Wildlife Land Trust, Inc. was playing in this process as they are identified as holder of the restriction. Chase said he had not heard of that organization.

Robinson said Orenda is located in Barnstable and he serves as an adviser. Robinson said they are helping facilitate the agreements and would hold the conservation restrictions on a temporary basis then turn it over to the Compact. It will then be assigned to the HCT. Lach said an incorporated entity must accept the conservation restriction and Orenda and the Compact are incorporated.

Answering a question by selectmen Chairman Larry Ballantine, Robinson confirmed that the properties would be taken off the tax rolls once the conservation restrictions are put in place. The Brown property is assessed at $346,700 and the Miller property at $146,100. Together, they generate $4,302 in tax revenue.

“It’s a (town of) Harwich contribution as well,” Ballantine said of the loss of property tax revenues. “It’s a good project.”

The conservation commission supported the conservation restrictions unanimously.

“Both parcels are located in close proximity to impaired water bodies as identified in the town’s comprehensive wastewater management plan. A conservation restriction on the subject parcels will help to preserve and protect the integrity of our water supply and support the town’s efforts in remediating impaired water bodies,” Water and Wastewater Superintendent Daniel Pelletier stated in a letter of support to the selectmen.

Lach said the overall conservation benefits and the reduction in sewer construction costs with the open space are major benefits to the town. When approving the conservation restrictions for the properties the motion stated the conservation restrictions protect public interest. The board approved the conservation restrictions unanimously.