By Terrill Covey
Hampton Union, January 27, 2004
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON - The Conservation Commission, along with the Trust for Public Land gave voters in Hampton the opportunity to get a first-hand look at what their money will buy them if they approve a $3 million bond issue to purchase a conservation easement on the Hurd Farm property.
The land has been in the Hurd family since 1923, and Steven Hurd, who owns it, said he would hate to see it become developed.
"I think it is a good thing if we can keep it open," he said. "My grandparents bought the farm in 1923, and I grew up here."
The 25 or so people who braved the arctic air for a site walk spoke highly of the opportunity to purchase the land.
Carol Hall, project manager for the Trust for Public Land, said that the town has a good opportunity to "maintain a valuable landmark" by approving the purchase of the conservation easement.
"This site walk was an opportunity for voters to see the land," Hall said. "Hopefully they will see what a treasure it is, so they vote to approve the bond and protect it."
By purchasing a conservation easement, the town will basically be buying development rights to the property, thereby protecting the land, and keeping it from being developed into perpetuity.
The total area of the easement is 145 acres, and it includes more than a mile of frontage along the Taylor River.
"With the growth in this area there is a lot of pressure from developers," Hall said. "By doing this now we can ensure that the land stays as it is for a long time."
John Cavanaugh, from Sen. Judd Gregg's office, also attended the site walk. Cavanaugh and Gregg are working to find federal money to support the project. They are hoping to get some matching funds through LCHIP grants, and other venues.
"This is a great project, and we're glad to be a part of it," Cavanaugh said. "The senator has worked a lot on the Great Bay restoration project, and we try to take what we learned from that, and apply it to other projects to try to get federal funding help."
Local officials also came out in support of the project, as selectmen Brian Warburton and Skip Sullivan attended the site walk.
"We strongly support this," said Selectman Brian Warburton. "The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to recommend this article, and I hope that people realize how valuable this could be to the town."
"Just can't imagine if all this was houses," said resident Keith Lessard. "That's what people have to think about."
Hall said that if the land was bought by a developer, they estimate it could hold 120 or more new residential homes.
A fact sheet put out by the Trust for Public Land states that the impact on taxes in Hampton will be 13 cents per $1,000 valuation in property taxes in the first year. It also states, however, that there are continuing efforts to get matching funds to lighten that burden.
"We wanted to show people the beauty of the land today," said Conservation Commission chairman Ellen Goethel. "This is such a pure place, with so much natural history, and history within the town. With all the pressure to develop around here protecting this land makes sense for so many reasons."