Acton Community Preservation Project Moves Forward Under Brownfields Agreement with Attorney General Coakley's Office
Purchase of 10-acre farm by Town of Acton will preserve historic farmland and develop recreational land and open space for public
"This agreement will support the Town of Acton's open space preservation project," said Attorney General Coakley. "Brownfields Covenants are vital tools for helping cities and towns restore and redevelop contaminated sites into community assets. This agreement will help local farmers by protecting the historic farmland for agricultural use, and will also allow the public to use the redeveloped land for recreational and open space purposes."
"I am pleased that the Department of Environmental Protection played a role in helping the Town of Acton move forward with this important open space preservation project," said MassDEP Commissioner Laurie Burt. "Our collective efforts not only ensure that environmental hazards posed by this property are eliminated, but that its reuse as open space and agricultural land will be preserved for future generations through a conservation restriction."
The Town of Acton appropriated Community Preservation Act funds earlier this year for the purchase of the Simeone-Caouette property off of Stow and Marion Streets, abutting Mill Pond, in the historic section of South Acton. An unused portion of the property, separate from the farmed land, was contaminated with arsenic, lead and other hazardous materials from factories that were on the site in the late 19 th and early 20 th centuries, including a metal pail factory, a textile factory and a manufacturer of leather goods. The Brownfields Covenant provides liability relief to the Town related to contamination on the site in exchange for its promise to clean up the site and carry out its preservation plan. Brownfields Covenants protect applicants, in this case the Town of Acton, from claims by the Commonwealth or third parties for cleanup costs, property damage or natural resource damages under state law. Under the agreement, the Town of Acton will clean up the property in accordance with MassDEP standards, and impose a Conservation Easement acceptable to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
The Town of Acton's plan is to purchase the Simeone-Caouette property from the family that has farmed it for generations, lease the actively-farmed portion back to the family for continued agricultural use, and use the rest for publicly-available recreational land and other open space uses. The acquisition is part of an effort to preserve historic farmland and to develop recreational space for residents. The acquisition will allow the Town of Acton to connect the property to the abutting railroad right-of-way that the Town and the Commonwealth are in the process of developing for recreational use as part of the Assabet River Rail Trail. For more information on the rail trail, visit www.arrtinc.org.
"I have been very impressed with the thorough and efficient review that the staff of the Attorney General's Office and DEP brought to this project," said Lauren Rosenzweig Morton, Chair of the Acton Board of Selectmen. "Staff from both offices worked hand-in-hand with the Town to meet the project's short deadlines and to make the preservation of this important agricultural resource a reality. Because of the Attorney General's cooperation and support, the Town of Acton can move forward on a project that not only provides outstanding public benefits, but also helps to remediate and protect an important environmental resource. The agreement between the Attorney General's Office and the Town is a terrific example of what can happen when state and local government work together."
Most Brownfield projects involve economic development projects, such as commercial or residential buildings, which bring economic revitalization to sites already suited for intensive use. The development of open space, however, is also an important goal of Brownfield efforts, as the physical revitalization that comes from adding parks and other attractive open space areas contributes to overall community development. Brownfields Covenants completed by the AG's Office, with MassDEP's assistance, have previously helped the Town of Andover to redevelop a former Reichhold Chemical file size 1MB manufacturing plant into town recreation fields, and facilitated the development of the City of Lawrence's Scarito Park file size 1MB at a former industrial laundry site.
The AG's Office is dedicated to facilitating cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated properties through negotiating agreements that provide liability relief to those involved in the redevelopment. The AG's Office works closely with property owners, developers, municipalities and state and federal officials in cleaning up and redeveloping contaminated properties throughout the Commonwealth. In 2008, the Office amended its Brownfields Covenant Program regulations to streamline the application process for future agreements and to create new incentives to redevelop abandoned or underutilized contaminated properties. Thirty-six Brownfields Covenants have supported redevelopment at sites around the Commonwealth since the program went into effect in 2000. For more information, visit the Brownfields Covenant Program section of the Attorney General's website.
Brownfields Covenants are developed through close coordination between the Attorney General's Office and MassDEP. Benjamin Ericson, Chief of Attorney General Martha Coakley's Brownfields Unit, handled negotiations for the agreement, in coordination with MassDEP Brownfields Coordinator Catherine Finneran, MassDEP Central Region staff members Mary Gardner, Diane Belliveau and Nick Child, MassDEP natural resources analyst Karen Pelto, and MassDEP attorneys Rhonda Russian and Lucas Rogers.