By Diane Lederman from MassLive
AMHERST – Town Meeting has supported spending Community Preservation Act money to help buy a nearly 20-acre parcel of land of Belchertown Road that the town plans to use for myriad agricultural and resource protection projects.
Last November, the meeting rejected the request to spend $41,785 in Community Preservation Act money as the town’s contribution to buy the land but Monday night agreed to the spending.
Typically spending requests for CPA come before Town Meeting in the spring not fall and some Town Meeting members were concerned about whether there would be enough money for affordable housing if the money was appropriated for the land purchase.
At least 10 percent of the money must be spent on historic preservation, affordable housing and open space, according to the CPA law.
In November, the town received a state Local Acquisitions for Natural Diversity Program grant of $105,665 to help buy the land that resident Bob Saul has agreed to sell to the town for about $145,000.
The land will likely be used for community garden space as well as land for young farmers coming out of area colleges and the University of Massachusetts to use as incubator farms. Other possibilities include a nature trail.
The Select Board, Finance Committee and Conservation Commission all supported the spending, as did the CPA committee. Community groups such as Grow Food Amherst also advocated for the spending.
Conservation and Development and Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek in an email said the town will purchase the end by June 30. He said the town will spend a year in the planning process and the land will be ready for use for gardening in 2015.
University of Massachusetts professor John Gerber who has helped spearhead Grow Food Amherst said in an email that Grow Food and the “Amherst Agricultural Commission look at this property as an opportunity to demonstrate how small farms and public gardens can co-exist with wildlife protection and other natural resource priorities.
“I am particularly interested in engaging the pubic in helping to grow food for the low income populations in town, working with several social service agencies and hopefully the faith-based community.”