Why Gamble With A Sure Thing

The following letter appeared in local newspapers and is shared with us here by the author Michael Chambers

On June 1, the voters of Charlestown will have the opportunity to protect and preserve a 75-acre land parcel along Route 1, the Rhode Island Scenic Byway, by voting to grant a conservation easement to a land trust or state agency. Such a vote will preserve the last undeveloped piece of land on the Recessional Moraine in Southern Rhode Island. Some people say that the residents of town will lose control of the land and most of the value that this land possesses. They call it a “give away”, though I suspect they know that this isn’t the case. It is, however, a “keep away,” because it will keep the land away from the backhoe and the bulldozer, from those public officials looking for a future sale or leasing of that land, and from those who just can’t abide unspoiled, pristine lands.

A vote for a preservation easement will not raise the tax rate. It will not take money from the town budget or obligate the town to borrow money and go deeper into debt. This land will continue to provide a habitat for plants and animals, continue to invite all residents to use the hiking trails and enjoy its natural beauty, will bolster the local economy, improve the town’s quality of life, and (here is what no one will address) guide new growth into existing developed areas. In recent national, statewide and local elections, voters have overwhelmingly approved ballot measures to fund open space protection efforts. In the case of adding protection to the Moraine Preserve, no funding is needed, just the willingness to award a conservation easement to a guardian agent.

One final benefit to the town that lies locked into the intrinsic value of the Moraine Preserve is that preserving this land can lead to proportionally higher tax revenues. In several studies in Oregon, Maryland, Texas, and Minnesota, it was determined that the larger and more natural the open space, the greater the positive impact on nearby (within 2.5 miles) property prices. Large natural forest areas have a greater positive impact on nearby property prices than did recreational parks, specifically due to “the nuisance effect.” Often recreational parks are perceived as unsafe, unnecessary, under used or overused, and a source of noise pollution, thereby detracting from property values.

In short, the Moraine Preserve easement is a “keep away” that costs us nothing, enhances property values far into the future, increases tax revenues for the town, guides real estate development, protects plants and animals, and provides us all with the natural beauty that Charlestown is known for. On June 1, we have the opportunity to insure future protection of the Moraine Preserve by voting to appoint a guardian of the property through the award of a conservation easement.