The Rate of Development by law was soundly defeated at town meeting following a lively debate. In hindsight, what happened and why.
As expected, and understood, many feel less government and land owner rights need to be protected from more regulations and limits on uses. Individual rights have been the rock of our democracy since the pioneers that took over this country. I have enjoyed acting as king of my little twenty acre farm here in Pepperell. But I also am proud of the limits of use I am responsible to that honors the needs of my community, two acre zoning, water resource protections and paying taxes to ensure we all have the protective services we want.
I hope to also take pride in my efforts to protect our affordable, friendly, small town, rural character which does all of it's part in preventing the harms of climate change to our citizens and children. Supporting research on community development, a deep dive, best practice effort to ensure our best future for generations to come, will continue to be my ambition.
I will claim the post of underdog in opposing the "less planned" development path some cling to. As near by urban areas have backfilled, (adjusted zoning to reach the limits of further building lots) and remote work has increased, housing pressures in Pepperell are likely to increase. Internal and international climate migration is also likely to add pressure to our housing stock. Like dominoes, rural towns have fallen to development pressures as evidenced by Littleton, Acton, Chelmsford, etc. Pepperell will likely fall too. The position that "we don't have a residential housing problem" is shortsighted. Perhaps it's the pioneer spirit of adventure and meeting problems as they arise, misleads us in not recognizing that planning when there isn't a crisis is the best time to do that work. Prevention is not a human strength, yet but climate science is working on that. My friend Quentin Cutler, opposing the ROD, quoted Eisenhower, "Plans are useless, planning is essential!" Well, what I hear IKE advising is "planning is essential", and yes, they may not work out. If Ike had been present I'm sure he would have voted for the by-law. Jenny Gingras as a loving mother, wants her children to be able to live in Pepperell many years in the future. I have a daughter too. I don't wish for any child that the housing choices they have are in crowded, polluted and expensive affluent towns. I want to promise our children housing in a zero carbon community and the health of a small town community spirit that is very diverse in cultures and ethnicity with an abundance of health giving farms and green spaces.
The building permits the ROD proposed to limit are currently for very expensive housing and favors the very monoculture growth the ROD opponents want to avoid. Advocating for "affordable housing" , I believe frightens people with visions of high rise tenements, unsavory tenants and drug dealing, criminal elements with kids flooding our schools. We need a better understanding of who has access to that protected housing. Owners and renters can be our own school teachers, town safety personnel, workforce folks and disadvantaged families.
David Ganong read a 1970's document describing the same debate and concerns we discussed at this Special Town meeting, seeming to conclude that nothing has changed and we must be ok where we are. What Dave doesn't know is that since the 70's I have lost over half of the farm land acres to development that I have farmed. The problem is indeed the same, and has become far more critical. I have not yet heard from the pro-development folks how we are going to keep expanding residential growth and add to our natural and farm resources. I have asked Al Patenaude, Chair of the Planning Board to put that question on the Planning Board agenda. He agreed that would be a welcome discussion. He further explained that it's been difficult to get to that because of the tangle of recent development messes the planning board is dealing with. That, to me, speaks to the problem.