Decision to request MBTA draft lease put on hold

September 2, 2005

By Diane C. Beaudoin

TOWNSEND -- The matter of requesting a draft lease from the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, for a feasibility study for a Rail Trail in Townsend was put on hold until a full Board of Selectmen is present for a vote.

Chairman Daniel Murphy was not at Tuesday's meeting.

Selectmen Robert Plamondon and Peter Collins split the vote to do the request. Plamondon motioned to request the lease, and Collins voted no.

Requesting the draft lease "would put the town under no obligation," said Plamondon.

"It would just allow the feasibility study to move forward to collect more information," he said.

Collins said he is not in favor of a Rail Trail, as it would disrupt the plant and wildlife in the proposed area.

The original proposal was scaled down from 9.4 miles to 2.5 miles by the Squannacook River Rail Trail Feasibility Study Committee. The new trail proposal would have the trail go from the Townsend/Groton line, or Harbor Village to Depot Road in the center of town.

Study committee member Steve Meehan asked the town to consider requesting the draft lease, so the study can continue.

"We should look to have balance and what is best for the town," he said. "The issue of a rail trail will continue to keep coming up. We need to continue with the study to get the facts out. Then, the facts will either kill the entire project, or just let the facts get out, and let the people of the town decide."

Resident Joseph Shank spoke against having the study move ahead.

"I'm not for or against it being through town," he said. "I think maybe they should look to put it somewhere else. There are people that are going to lose their privacy. Also it will violate our river and river bed. To me if there is no consensus on the board, there is no sense going forward."

Plamondon said, "I have concerns about the rail bed, but I think it should ultimately be decided by the voters on a non-binding referendum question. People may be afraid to speak at a town meeting, so it should be decided in the ballot box."

The draft lease would allow the study committee to begin the process of researching funding for design, construction and maintenance costs.

"We have taken this as far as we can on our own," Meehan said. "We now need a draft lease to continue."