Developers and local citizens have been at odds over the direction of their town growth ever since the need for "elbow room" and "go west, young man, go west" ended as an option for all. Wanting to have a town environment that most people are happy with has become, too often, a heated and at times, unhealthy argument.
Pepperell, in my experience, is currently suffering from a hostile civic environment with developers attacking the conservation and environmentalists voices. Developers see open land as opportunity for building, conservation/environmentalists value open land for its natural aseets.
Climate change is a new player at the debate table and values open land as the natural solution to balancing our carbon footprint. Any additional infrastructure adds to our carbon out put, cluster development, affordable housing, green energy homes, are carbon adders. Open land is carbon negative and keeping a local supply helps us to reach the 0 carbon goal by 2050.
The proposed rate of development by law accomplishes two things. It limits housing permits without totally shutting down housing growth, historically reducing annual permits from twelve to fifteen per year , to ten per year. Not a severe limit, for four years. Secondly, it asks the Planning Board to use current professional best practice municipal planning tools to predict financial and environmental outcomes of development scenarios. Within four years Pepperell voters can then choose the path for Pepperell's future., considering finances, resources and climate change. It is, in my opinion, a very smart approach to being in control of our lives and ensuring the health of Pepperell, especially in reaching the 0 carbon by 2050 goal.
Some of the arguments against the ROD by-law are puzzling. It has been proposed that Pepperell has a slow rate of development now and limits aren't needed. The same folks argue limits will have serious economic consequences. It seems this by-law will have little impact on economic development, "we don't have a problem" . Better planning may provide the type of economic growth we all seek.
The finance committee suggests we can't reasonably plan beyond four to five years, citing their business experience. However, we just completed a ten year TownMaster Plan, Massachusetts has written it's 0 carbon Plan by 2050, (27 year plan) and decades ago we developed a zoning plan that guides us to this day. Planning for interactions with consumers as businesses do, is very likely quite different from municipal planning where
we have governing tools to overcome challenges of variables of the future.
Opponents have suggested this is a snob by-law. However it promotes the diversity gained by redirecting a focus on affordable housing and away from residential permits. now given for "snob housing" in the $500,00 plus price range permits are going to.
Some have complained that the Grow Smart group is opposed to tranparency and public education. However they have held multiple public information meetings, have posted their web site and put out a public mailer to all voters. They withdrew from a Citizen Engagement Night invitation due to fears that the debate opponents would further aggravate the hostile environment that has evolved among our community leaders. (a problem that needs to be resolved)
I understand the pull back from folks that complain that it is unfair to land owners who are compromised by government interference with their ownership rights. Unfortunately, we live in a crowded world and sometimes individual rights are compromised for the greater good. Consider my twenty acre farm is zoned for two acre house lots . For the greater good, I'm limited, as are others, on how. my land can be used. Daniel Boon, now, has nowhere to go to escape the crowd.
Overall, I see a continuing effort by some, as evidenced by the 40R, AROD by laws, to build out Pepperell. Voters have turned them down, wanting to preserve the town they love. Voting for the ROD by-law is an important step in pursuing best practices and controlling for future expenses and having the town we enjoy. I am confident that we can get to a plan that preserves affordability for both blue and white collar workers and achieves a net 0 carbon footprint.