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Committees clash on 'land swap' at Cedar Ridge

Date: 6/8/2009

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

WILBRAHAM Cedar Ridge of Wilbraham, the condominium complex from Kent Pecoy that will be located at 404 Stony Hill Rd., has been in the development stage for several years. A few changes to the plans have been made since the original concept was presented - most recently, changing the complex from 55-plus to all ages.

Now, the developer wants to change the shape of the property, and this has caused a disagreement between the town's Planning Board and Open Space and Recreation Plan Committee (OSRPC). The two committees came before the Board of Selectmen last week to discuss their issues with the change.

"The developer bought the Oaks Farm, which is narrow but long ... almost a mile long," Eric Fuller, vice-chair of the Planning Board, explained. The land meets the White Cedar Swamp at its eastern end. "When he came to get his special permit, he said he'd like to get another piece of property to make an 'L' shape [instead of one long strip]. To do that, he needed to get a piece of municipal, town-owned land. That wasn't in the cards for the developer at the beginning."

It may be in the cards now, however.

The Planning Board and the OSRPC met earlier this year to discuss the prospect of "swapping" town-owned land for a piece that Pecoy owned, to create an "L" shape, according to Fuller. "The acreages were about the same, and it seemed like a good idea," he added.

The Board of Selectmen and the Planning Board received a letter from the OSRPC in early April noting that the committee had changed its mind, though by a vote of 9-0, against.

"There is interest on the part of the developer to buy town property and exchange part of Cedar Ridge for that," Charles Phillips, chair of the OSRPC, told Reminder Publications. "The proposed arrangement may not be the best for the town."

He conceded that the plan could provide better open space and recreation for the development, but the OSRPC is always looking for something new and better for the town. The biggest concern of the committee regarding Cedar Ridge is the quality and quantity of the land being developed.

"The Open Space Committee had a different perception of what the meeting [with the Planning Board] was about," Phillips said. "We were there to listen to the developer and get information. It was not the be all, end all."

In order to get on the same page, the OSRPC and the Planning Board will be meeting on June 24 at Wilbraham Town Hall to work on finding a consensus between the two groups on what they would like to see done with the land around Cedar Ridge.

"There's no point in us being stubborn," Phillips said. "We just want to do what's best for the town."

Fuller explained that if both groups agree on the land "swap," the purchases and sales would need to be approved by voters at a Town Meeting.