The Town of Guilford has a long tradition of preserving land, which has helped to both define its character and safeguard its natural resources. Local surveys have consistently shown that the town’s historic and natural character are two of the biggest reasons why people want to live and work in Guilford.
According to the Town of Guilford Natural Resource Inventory updated in 2010, “Open space provides the framework for experiencing and enjoying our natural assets and provides access to them. Aside from prioritizing the protection of our working agricultural lands, among the most important open space for natural resources are those that protect public sources of drinking water and critical habitats such as un-fragmented forestland and fields. The Planning and Zoning Commissions Build out Study (2002) indicated that of Guilford’s approximate 30,000 acres, roughly 7,500 acres are committed as open space and roughly 8,100 acres remain as privately-held vacant land. It is this undeveloped, vacant land where opportunities would exist to further protect Guilford’s natural resources.” While the environmental and recreational benefits of open space preservation are readily apparent, the many economic benefits are often less evident. Many independent studies have shown that over time compared with residential development, that open space is one of the most effective tools a municipality can use to stabilize its tax base. Examples include: Open space supporting industries (tourism and others) that can generate thousands of dollars in economic activity annually, reducing costs for public infrastructure and programs (roads, schools, emergency services) thereby lessening the need for property tax increases. And well planned open space protection measures need not conflict with the town meeting other vital needs, such as economic development, municipal fiscal health and affordable housing. All are principles promoted by our Plan of Conservation and Development.
In 2000 the Town of Guilford approved a $5 million Bond Authorization to fund future land acquisition. Over two decades the authorization has been used specifically for 11 properties, which include the Braemore Preserve, Meyerhuber Preserve, James Valley Preserve, and Dudley Preserve, utilizing 91% of the authorization monies. Additionally, it has been available to allow the town to negotiate purchases with assurance of funding, while ultimately receiving funding from grants and other third parties. Voters will have the opportunity to decide on a proposed bond measure, recently approved by the Board of Selectmen that would secure $10 million in funding for land acquisition. The resolution allocates $7.5 million to Class A properties, open space and agricultural lands, and $2.5 million for Class B and C lands, active recreation and municipal use. The authorization has NO cost to the taxpayer or the town until it is actually funded and when it is used the interest rates are affordably low. If the bonding is approved by voters, the Land Acquisition Commission (LAC) will be able to prepare recommendations for specific tracts of land as they come up for sale. Each future purchase proposed by the LAC must be approved by both the Board of Selectman and the Board of Finance and by Town Meeting, allowing for several phases of oversight and public comment during the process. In the interests of having an informed citizenry ready to vote on this issue, the LAC will be putting out a series of educational pieces between now and April.
In the meantime residents with any questions may contact: Gary MacElhiney: 203-640-9969 Kevin Clark: 203-843-5315 Kim Brocket: 203-627-5885 Or any other member of the Land Acquisition Commission.