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September 5, 2015
Oriental’s Town Board, at its September 1 meeting put off a decision on whether to accept the arrangement – 5 acres off of North Street – offered by the Camp Creek Partnership. In a July letter to the town, the partnership said it would give the Town five of the ten acres it bought a decade ago. The partners initially gave the town 45 days to make up its mind, but amid questions of costs and liability – the site on low-lying land has a house in ill-repair – they now say the Town can take
the time it needsuntil the end of the year. The Board says it will hear from the public at its early October meeting. A Letter to the Editor from Jim Barton suggests the Town use the time to consider the nature of the offer and earlier commitments by the partners to provide the public more than just the unimproved acreage. Also writing is Commissioner Larry Summers, and Bob Miller who favor the offer.
Our Town Commissioners are considering accepting the donation of the Camp Creek property as future park/greenspace. There are a number of reasons it is a good idea to do this, including the following:
Parks provide places for both active and passive recreation and these activities promote physical and mental health.
The population of Oriental continues to grow, and will likely accelerate as more retirees come to live here. We don’t have much public open space and more is needed. Greener communities are more attractive to both newcomers and new business, and have higher property values.
Green space provides a variety of free ecosystem services to a community. This includes purification of air and water, storm water management, beautification, carbon sequestering, community cooling, nutrient cycling, and habitat for wildlife.
There is an opportunity cost to Oriental if the parcel is not accepted. While the loss of tax revenue is minimal, once this parcel goes to another owner the opportunity to have it for park/open space is gone.
I urge our Commissioners to accept this generous offer.
To the Editor,
In mid July the Oriental Town Manager received a letter from Camp Creek Partners, offering the Town of Oriental, a 5.1 acre historic parcel of land located between North Street and Midyette Street. After extensive research, including a walk- thru of the property I believe that it would be in the best interest of the Town of Oriental to accept this property.
The original grant of approval to the Camp Creek Subdivision in 2007 added only one provision to this particular parcel and that stated “No further Subdivision of Arboretum and Park Area is allowed”. The intent at the time seemed to be to develop this and give this to the town. That, of course, was predicated on the success of the subdivision. Unfortunately the economic conditions became unfavorable and the subdivision did not prosper.
Still, with what I believe, are the best of intents they wish to give the “Arboretum and Park” parcel to the town. Our town attorney stated that he advises towns to accept offered property unless the land is contaminated. Without development it would not cost the town any additional liability insurance. I have been to the old historic home on the property it is a lovely classic historic structure and remarkable well preserved. I found no obvious evidence of contamination.
The property is currently valued at $115,686 which means a property tax to the town of approximately $231. We would lose that that but would gain a valuable piece of property that could, someday, turn into a nice park, walking trail, historic site etc. We would not, however, have to do a thing with it. A future board with grants could and probably should do something to enhance its value to the town.
This is not the only piece of property that we hold for the future. We have a 13.7 acre parcel on White Farm Road, where Water Tower #2 is located, and several smaller parcels throughout the town. Our citizens and developers have been generous. Let us not deprive future generations of the opportunity to enjoy additional parks and historic sites.
I, unfortunately, will likely miss the regular October town meeting due to a very necessary major neck surgery that I will be having the day before the meeting. This will be the first regular town meeting that I will miss in almost four years. I did ask the board to take this issue up at the agenda meeting on 1 October so I could be involved in any action on it. They turned me down.
Town of Oriental Commissioner
I am concerned with the specifics of the Camp Creek 5 acre land offered to the Town. I commend Commissioner David White for delaying a Board of Commissioners decision and opening this to public hearing and comment. Contrary to statements from some that this is a “no-brainer at no cost to the Town”, further review is required.
It seems clear the original requirement was for Camp Creek LLC to set aside the acreage for a public-use park as a requirement to get their R2 permit. Regardless the circumstances and economic downturn which the LLC Partners cite in a letter to the Town, it appears that the LLC had a requirement to build a park from the outset. This apparently conflicts with a public statement by Commissioner Larry Summers wherein he maintains that the LLC had intended to donate the land at the time of its acquisition. Whatever the case, this needs to be clarified.
If the requirement for development approval a decade ago was conditional upon a set aside for a public park, then it appears the Camp Creek LLC has not fulfilled its obligation. Transferring the land to the Town simply shifts the costs from the Camp Creek LLC to the Town. Camp Creek LLC has also stated in its letter that if the Town does not accept the land, it is asking that the conditional requirement be removed so they can sell the entire 10 acre parcel. If that were to be the case, and the land transferred to another party without condition, there might never be a public park.
I am not sure if either is a good or bad deal for the Town. But the other unanswered aspect of this is what potential burdens the Town incurs by accepting the land offer? If left as a watershed as Commissioner Summers supports, do we incur any obligations to DENR or CAMA? And, if the Town accepts the property, are we aware of potential restrictions as to usage, costs or environmental remediation?
Whichever the case, it does not seem to me to be the no cost deal that has been advertised nor has it been fully vetted. I strongly recommend the Town explore all options and take public input before reaching a decision.
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