Commission Looking Into Options For Leasing Main Street Bogs 

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Cape Cod Tech , Cranberry industry , Agriculture & Farming

Leo Cakounes working his organic cranberry bogs. FILE PHOTO

HARWICH – The conservation commission is assessing the steps it will take in leasing the 33-acre Main Street (Kelley Road) property when the current lease expires in November.

The lease is now held by Leo Cakounes, who said he has an interest in pursuing another lease of the site, which includes 10 acres of cranberry bogs and 23 acres of upland. Cakounes said he wants to work with Cape Cod Regional Technical High School to use the property for educational programs if he is awarded the lease.

Cakounes has had discussions with Superintendent Robert Sanborn over the past few years about the school taking over the farmland and establishing an agricultural education center on the property. 

“You can’t make money in agriculture. There’s got to be an alternative use of the property and education is it,” Cakounes said. “We’ve got to educate our children about the environment and natural resources. There is no better piece of land than that property to teach environmental science and veterinary science.” 

“We are definitely still interested, but there are glitches with the way the land was acquired that must be worked out,” Sanborn said. He said he was hoping to meet with town officials this coming week to discuss the issues. 

The commission last week began discussions seeking proposals for future use of the property. With the November lease termination, Commission member Mark Coleman recommended moving forward with a solicitation of proposals to “see what’s out there.”

Conservation Administrator Amy Usowski said there are complications in Cape Tech's use of the property relating to the funding of the town acquisition of the property. A state Self Help grant used to fund the purchase does not allow construction and use of new structures on the conservation lands. The structures there are grandfathered, but new structures, like classrooms and a caretaker’s cottage, are prohibited.

Commission member James Atkinson said the restrictions do not allow all the things the tech school wants to do, which would require going back to the Legislature and getting a special act approved. Legislation should be filed jointly between the town and the tech school, he said, but it would not likely happen until the next legislative session.

Usowski said she would be willing to help if the commission and the town want to go that route.

Coleman said the commission should move forward with requesting proposals given the November termination of the existing lease. Atkinson said a proposal would have to include the current restrictions and would impact the Cape Tech plan. He recommended the special legislation expunging the restriction be sought first. Usowski agreed, adding that there have been discussions with legal counsel about the Self Help grant restrictions.

“The ball’s in the tech school’s court,” commission member Alan Hall said of establishing a timeline for the commission to address a future lease. “We need to clarify a drop-dead date.”

Cakounes said he would be willing to accept a lease extension of a year or two allowing the town and Cape Tech time to obtain the special legislation, if that is the way they choose to proceed. His 20-year lease expired a year ago and selectmen agreed to an additional one-year lease while various options were weighed.

HARWICH – The conservation commission is assessing the steps it will take in leasing the 33-acre Main Street (Kelley Road) property when the current lease expires in November.

The lease is now held by Leo Cakounes, who said he has an interest in pursuing another lease of the site, which includes 10 acres of cranberry bogs and 23 acres of upland. Cakounes said he wants to work with Cape Cod Regional Technical High School to use the property for educational programs if he is awarded the lease.

Cakounes has had discussions with Superintendent Robert Sanborn over the past few years about the school taking over the farmland and establishing an agricultural education center on the property. 

You can’t make money in agriculture. There’s got to be an alternative use of the property and education is it,” Cakounes said. “We’ve got to educate our children about the environment and natural resources. There is no better piece of land than that property to teach environmental science and veterinary science.” 

We are definitely still interested, but there are glitches with the way the land was acquired that must be worked out,” Sanborn said. He said he was hoping to meet with town officials this coming week to discuss the issues. 

The commission last week began discussions seeking proposals for future use of the property. With the November lease termination, Commission member Mark Coleman recommended moving forward with a solicitation of proposals to “see what’s out there.”

Conservation Administrator Amy Usowski said there are complications in Cape Tech's use of the property relating to the funding of the town acquisition of the property. A state Self Help grant used to fund the purchase does not allow construction and use of new structures on the conservation lands. The structures there are grandfathered, but new structures, like classrooms and a caretaker’s cottage, are prohibited.

Commission member James Atkinson said the restrictions do not allow all the things the tech school wants to do, which would require going back to the Legislature and getting a special act approved. Legislation should be filed jointly between the town and the tech school, he said, but it would not likely happen until the next legislative session.

Usowski said she would be willing to help if the commission and the town want to go that route.

Coleman said the commission should move forward with requesting proposals given the November termination of the existing lease. Atkinson said a proposal would have to include the current restrictions and would impact the Cape Tech plan. He recommended the special legislation expunging the restriction be sought first. Usowski agreed, adding that there have been discussions with legal counsel about the Self Help grant restrictions.

The ball’s in the tech school’s court,” commission member Alan Hall said of establishing a timeline for the commission to address a future lease. “We need to clarify a drop-dead date.”

Cakounes said he would be willing to accept a lease extension of a year or two allowing the town and Cape Tech time to obtain the special legislation, if that is the way they choose to proceed. His 20-year lease expired a year ago and selectmen agreed to an additional one-year lease while various options were weighed.