Councilors, Mayor Agree to Explore Options for Preserving Farm Land Near Haverhill Watershed

Haverhill City Hall. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Haverhill is looking at options to protect the city’s water supply by purchasing a 22.5-acre parcel of land in east Haverhill.

City councilors and Mayor James J. Fiorentini said Tuesday night they wish to revive the possibility of the city buying land at 97 Corliss Hill Road. The city previously chose not to exercise its right to buy the property to prevent housing development there. Instead, favoring the purchase of a 29.4-acre property on Brandy Brow Road.

When it was learned that, due to COVID-19, the city has more time to reconsider its options, City Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan, among others, expressed interest in both properties.

“I think it is the intent of the Council that we try and preserve both of those areas. It is our watershed and we have to protect our watershed. I think everybody is on the same page. I think that is why a lot of people are here tonight and I hope the discussion is about Corliss Hill as well as Brandy Brow Road,” he said.

The “discussion” Sullivan mentioned refers to a meeting taking place today between the mayor, Environmental Health Technician Robert E. Moore Jr., Deputy Public Works Director Robert E. Ward and Vanessa Johnson-Hall of Essex County Greenbelt, a land trust.

Johnson-Hall told the City Council there are a number of ways the city can move to protect this property, including working with a group such as Greenbelt.

“So, the way this conservation option would work is that Greenbelt would partner with a private land owner to ensure the land is permanently preserved. The city would assign its right of first refusal to Greenbelt. Greenbelt would then purchase the land for $400,000. Greenbelt would then permanently preserve the land with a conservation restriction. That’s a permanent deed restriction on the property that stays with the land no matter who owns the property,” she explained.

Johnson-Hall said Greenbelt’s plan would keep the property from being developed and ensure any farming done on the property would not impact drinking water. She also said their plan would include a publicly accessible hiking trail. She also informed the Council the abutting neighbor has agreed to apply those same restrictions to their 23 acres if the city chooses to move in this direction.

The Council voted to wait until after today’s meeting before making any decisions, agreeing to revisit the plan at the June 15 Council session.

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