Oct. 13–WALPOLE — Residents signed an agreement Friday to purchase about 10 acres of land from a company that had intended to turn part of it into a gas station.
D&C Transportation, a petroleum distribution and trucking company based in Orleans, Vt., owns property on Walker Road adjacent to Walpole Veterinary Hospital.
Ray Boas and Chuck Shaw, both of Walpole, signed the agreement to buy the property on behalf of a group of concerned residents. Shaw owns the abutting animal hospital, and Boas produces a monthly community publication, The Walpole Clarion.
Earlier this year, D&C Transportation submitted plans to the planning board to build a convenience store and gas station on the land. But the company withdrew the application in May after stiff opposition from residents.
Discussions quickly began with the gas company for residents to buy the land instead, Boas said, but the parties never signed a contract. He said he and Shaw reached out to D&C Transportation several times in the past few months but didn’t receive a response.
Officials with D&C Transportation were not immediately reachable for comment Friday.
Last month, the gas company returned to the Walpole Planning Board with the same application that it withdrew in May. The board agreed to hold a public hearing on the matter Oct. 9.
Draft minutes from that meeting, which haven’t been approved by the board yet, note there was a “full house” in attendance. At least 15 people spoke against the project during the public hearing, with many more writing letters, according to the draft minutes.
Most of the opposition was nearly identical to the criticisms offered earlier this year, including concerns about noise, pollution, traffic and that the project would conflict with the town’s master plan.
The planning board voted unanimously against recommending the proposal, and it moved to the zoning board, which had a hearing scheduled for this upcoming Wednesday.
But Boas said that, after the overwhelming show of opposition, negotiations to buy the property kicked up again. He said he and Shaw signed the agreement Friday afternoon to buy the land by the end of this year. He’s focused on moving forward with the purchase and forging a relationship with D&C Transportation in the process.
“Anything that happened in the past is past history,” he said.
The next step is raising the money for the purchase, Boas said, though he declined to share the property’s sale price. Until now, fundraising efforts have been minimal, since there was no contract in place, yet he said nearly $60,000 has already been donated to the cause.
“That shows you how much concern there is, and community support,” he said.
Although Boas and Shaw signed the agreement, the goal is to purchase the land and gift it to the Walpole Conservation Commission, according to Boas. Because of the property’s geographical position as “the gateway to Walpole,” Boas explained, it’s important to ensure it’s preserved and stave off efforts to develop land in that area.
“Basically, we are protecting what has always been on the Connecticut River corridor,” Boas said. “It’s a designated scenic area. I mean, I could go on and on and on about the reasons why these parcels of land are so important.”
And the fight to protect that land has garnered unprecedented support in the town, he noted. With so much attention on the effort, he said there’s a focus on keeping residents involved and informed.
“We want this acquisition to be a community project,” Boas said. “We want everybody to be involved, everybody to make a donation — no matter how small — just so everybody has ownership and pride in what was accomplished.”
Donations are tax-deductible, according to Boas, and the money will be kept separate from the town’s general fund. Checks made payable to “Walker Road Conservation” can be hand-delivered to the selectmen’s office at town hall or mailed to P.O. Box 729, Walpole, NH 03608.
It’s been a long road with more work ahead, Boas said, but the many people involved “feel really, really good” about it.
“You know, there is still a couple parcels of land that we want to protect,” he said, “and we’re going to go one parcel at a time.”
Sierra Hubbard can be reached at 355-8546 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @SierraHubbardKS.
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