Nine-year-old Alex Wexler and his twin sister Bridget approached the microphone during Monday night’s town council meeting and told officials what Nockum Hill meant to them.
“Last year I went to see the turtles and I saw them hatch and I thought it was really cool,” said Alex, a third-grader at Sowams School. “I don’t want them to take down Nockum Hill.”
The two children received the loudest round of applause from a large crowd that had gathered to discuss the open space issue in the George Street section of town. Other residents followed and shared their hopes to keep the space open and undeveloped, and some asked the board to make changes that would ensure the natural landscape for generations to come.
The council, acting upon a recommendation from the housing trust rather than on the residents’ concerns, voted to remove the parcel of land from consideration for affordable housing development. The unanimous vote drew another round of applause.
But while residents were able to preserve the parcel at 139 George St. from affordable housing, they were stopped short of discussing the future use of the property. Council president June Speakman said that discussion needed to be pushed off to another date, even though the council agenda read: “Discuss and Act on Use of 139 George Street.”
Charlotte Sornborger, a longtime resident and champion of nature, said the council was quite clear at its prior meeting when it stated it would discuss the use of the property during the June gathering.
“Last month it was stated we were going to discuss the future use of Nockum Hill. You said it would be tonight,” Ms. Sornborger said.
Ms. Speakman said she did not want to rush the issue, and mentioned other items on the evening’s agenda. She said the council will schedule another meeting, one which could be devoted solely to the future use of 139 George St.
After some discussion, the council voted to have the meeting in the fall, likely in October. Ms. Speakman said nothing would be done to the property in the meantime.
Barrington resident and preservationist Bonnie Warren said it was not wise to wait until October to discuss the issue. She also said the town needs to talk about the proposed development, Residences at the Preserve. That project calls for the construction of 24 housing units on four acres of building land abutting Nockum Hill. The town’s planning board has denied the project, but its ruling was overturned by the State Housing Appeals Board.
The council said it was not going to discuss that property at its June meeting, but may in the near future.
Later during Monday’s council meeting, the board voted to approve a restrictive covenant that ensures all money from the Spencer Trust that was used to purchase the 139 George Street parcel be returned to the trust once the town decides a future use of the land. A prior town council used the funds from the trust, which was designed to help the poor and unfortunate of Barrington.
Friends of Nockum Hill
There is a new voice in Barrington, one that speaks for the “preservation of the cultural heritage, agriculture land, open space character and scenic qualities of Nockum Hill for all people, for all time.”
The group, called Friends of Nockum Hill, was recently incorporated by Martha Brooks, Lauren Clegg, Jason Lawrence, Charlotte Sornborger and Elizabeth Warren. Van Edwards read a statement from the group to the council during Monday’s meeting — the statement called for the town to do everything in its power to stop developments on Nockum Hill.