PEPPERELL -- As drought conditions continue to have a negative impact on farms across the country, the Board of Selectmen approved a five-year Agriculture Land Lease of the Adamovich and Homoleski parcels to Dragon Fly Farm owners Susan and Frank Ventura.
The Venturas have been farming the 32 acres for the past three years growing 50 varieties of vegetables.
"I have no issues at all. It's been a good relationship," said Town Administrator John Moak.
The Venturas support a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model for their farm with more than 160 members, many from Pepperell. Shares are sold at the start of each calendar year and members receive weekly baskets of fresh vegetables throughout the growing season. The farm is hoping to receive an organic certification over the next five years, but noted they use organic farming techniques today.
The board was more reluctant to approve an application for an Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) for approximately 86 acres of land along River Road owned by Marlene Gardner. The APR process protects the land in perpetuity for agricultural purposes.
"Pepperell's been very good about supporting this in the past," said Conservation Administrator Paula Terrasi who noted previous APRs for the Kimball and Twin Valley farms.
Terrasi was joined by Chris Chisholm, regional planner for agricultural preservation, noted that the lengthy application is in process, but not yet complete. When approved,
Both Selectmen Michael Green and Joseph Sergi expressed muted concern over such a large parcel being restricted to agricultural use.
"Just as a selectman, in terms of revenue and the challenges we have as a town, we have to balance the two," said Sergi.
"I'm trying to balance the possibility of taking out good land that could help the town," said Green.
The board agreed to defer a vote on the application until the next meeting with an expectation that the application would be closer to completion.
The board approved actions by the Historical Commission to restore the Farrar Flagpole on Prescott Street. In a memo to the board, Diane Cronin, chairman, explained that the original "Liberty Pole" was first erected in 1774 and that a trust fund was established in 1919 to preserve the existing pole. Total cost for restoration is expected to be less than $108 with generous support from Charter Communications, Yankee Restorations and local volunteers.
Rail Trail sign
The board also endorsed the Historical Commission's request to install a historic sign on the Rail Trail in Railroad Square. The sign will depict the Covered Bridge on one side and Colonel Prescott on the other.
Text for the signage was provided to the selectmen by Cronin.
"Welcome to Pepperell Massachusetts, location of the historic Covered Bridge since 1848. A woman patriot, Prudence Wright, captured a British spy at the site of the Covered Bridge during the Revolutionary War in April of 1775. Visit the Covered Bridge and the Prudence Wright Scenic Overlook located ? mile north on Groton Street."
"Welcome to Pepperell Massachusetts, home of Colonel William Prescott 1726-1795. Colonel Prescott is one of Pepperell's most famous citizens. He is remembered as the commander of the American forces in the redoubt at the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775; where he's believed to have said 'Do not fire until you see the whites of their eyes!'"
"We recognize that these are huge assets in the town and we want the community to see that," said Cronin.
Approvals are still required from the Mass Department of Conservation and Recreation, as they own the land where the sign is planned for placement. The Historical Commission has already raised $675 for the project.
"I think it's a great idea to have some kind of a sign with a historical reference to the Town of Pepperell. I think it's great for the Rail Trail," said Chairman Sergi.
Selectman Green expressed reservations within the scope of the broader economic development planning for the town.
"It's a great idea. I'm worried about putting in individual pieces. I want to make sure that it eventually all ties together and fits together," said Green.
"We need any kind of help we can get," said Sergi.
New garrrison commander
Lt. Col .Steve Egan introduced himself to the board as the new garrison commander at Fort Devens. Egan, who moved back to New England this spring, assumed command of his new post on June 12. The West Point graduate will serve a two-year tour at Fort Devens assuming command from Lt. Col. Warren Bacote.
"We have a very patriotic town and we support Fort Devens and all our soldiers," said Chairman Stephen Themelis.
Pepperell signed an Army Community Covenant with Fort Devens in 2009, joining a number of other local communities in an effort to provide support to active duty military personnel and their families residing in the area.
Charity wine license
The board approved a Charity Wine License for the Friends of the Lawrence Library who will be holding their fifth annual wine tasting on October 13 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Lee Ann Phoenix, co-president of the nonprofit organization, noted that last year the event raised $4,000 for "programming for adults and children" at the library. Tickets for the event are $20 and each attendee will receive an engraved glass.
Richard Potts from Pepperell Community Media, Inc. received approval for the selectmen to move forward with a project to enhance the production capabilities for local access. The "gifted project" included new robotic cameras in Meeting Room A, new ceiling tiles and lighting, a projection system, baffling of the AC ducts and vents, and a production suite to be located adjacent to the meeting room in the mail room. There will be no costs to the town for these improvements.
A Special Town Meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Oct. 29. The deadline for submission of warrant articles is 2 p.m. on Sept. 5.
Election workers for the coming year were appointed and the board listed more than 18 vacant citizen volunteer positions on various town committees including Affordable Housing Committee (3), Cable TV Advisory Committee (4), Capital Program Committee (2), Covered Bridge Committee (3), Cultural Council, Finance Committee (2), Information Systems Technology Committee (2), Personnel Board (1), and the Town Forest Committee (1). Interested residents should submit their application in person at the Selectmen's office at Town Hall, or via email to email@example.com.
Town Administrator Moak advised the board that the Finance Committee is recommending moving forward with the supplemental budget contingent upon a Proposition 2 and a half override.
Moak advised the board that the first floor of Town Hall will be reconfigured during Aug. 22-24. Moak expects some disruption of Town Hall services during that time.
"The purpose of this is to give a little more room and put all the collections on one side," said Moak.
"A lot of people come in looking for the treasurer's office and that will be their first stop," he said.
The board plans to resubmit its article for rezoning the Peter Fitzpatrick School for commercial use. Moak has received a proposal from Mass Development offering help to develop a request for proposal
"It's a request that they assist us with development constraints on the envelope, traffic analysis and concept plans for two or three development alternatives at a deferred cost of $15,000 to $20,000," said Sergi.
"They would start work after the rezoning," said Moak who explained that the costs would be recouped by Mass Development should the property be sold in the future.