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Brown Farm Committee exploring allowed usages for property

Date: 1/14/2016

EAST LONGMEADOW – The Brown Property Committee hopes to identify the allowed usages for the 253-acerage, which was purchased by the town in 2009 for more than $1 million.

Brown Property Committee Chair and Recreation Director Colin Drury told Reminder Publications the property was purchased with Community Preservation Act (CPA) money under the open space criteria, but committee members do not know whether active or passive recreation or a combination of the two would be allowed on the land.

“The actual designation under [CPA] really is the question,” he added. “We’re doing research now. I’m going to be watching that Town Meeting when they purchased that property to see if the moderator said, ‘This is being purchased for passive and recreation under the open space.’ If that was said no we can focus on our work to actually make a recommendation for what the designation of the property is.”

If the property is designated as passive recreation only, athletics would not be allowed there, Drury noted.

If no designation was made during the 2009 Annual Town Meeting the committee plans to recommend a designation to the Board of Selectmen, he added.

When asked why it has taken more than half a decade to address the issue of usages at the Brown Farm property, Drury said the town might have purchased the property with the intent of preserving open space in the community.

“If they purchased this property under the notion that it’s going to be athletic fields and a park atmosphere – splash pads, playgrounds, a basketball court – then we haven’t done the job that the town bought the property for. That’s why step one is understanding the designation for the property. Step two is then doing the research so we can then make an educated presentation to the selectmen.”

The former Brown Farm property has also been the home of the town’s Community Gardens for the past several years.

Brown Property Committee member Heather Cunningham said the selectmen approved 4-H programs at the property this past summer as well.  

“Is that all the property can be?” Drury noted. “No. It can be much more.”

He said he believes the town’s greatest recreation need is field and court space for its programs due to the Recreation Department’s 25 percent growth in the past five years.

“We’re kind of coming to a time where recreation could grow exponentially in this community, but we’re obviously going to need the support of our citizens and our leaders in this community to take recreation to the next level,” he added. “Right now we’re serving almost 6,000 program spots per year. When I started here we were serving about 4,900 … I can already see our programming bursting at the seams.”

He said if active recreation such as athletic fields were approved at the Brown property, one of the biggest hurdles would be parking.

“If you had a full sized soccer field that’s 22 players on the field. They come with parents and grandparents and uncles and aunts and they all want to watch the game,” he noted. “Just to have one soccer game you’re probably talking about 30 to 50 cars and that’s just one field.”