Haverhill Moves to Complete Purchase of Corliss Hill Road Watershed Land

Haverhill Water Treatment Plant, Amesbury Road. (Courtesy photograph.)

The Haverhill City Council Tuesday completed the final piece of a plan to protect the city’s watershed by acquiring land at 97 Corliss Hill Road.

Last December, Haverhill teamed up with the Essex County Greenbelt Association to purchase 22.5 acres of agricultural land to keep it from being developed. An agreement allowed Greenbelt to purchase the property for $400,000 with the understanding that once the transaction was completed, the city would buy back 13 acres of wooded land along the East Meadow River for $150,000 through a friendly land taking.

City Solicitor William D. Cox Jr. explained the process.

“Essex County Greenbelt Association acquired title to 97 Corliss Hill Road last Thursday, so they are now the owners of that property and our agreement was that the city would now take a portion of those premises by eminent domain,” he said.

The property was owned by Mark A. and Daniel S. Byra and was restricted to use as agricultural land. To sell the property for development, the family was required to give the city the right of first refusal. Mayor James J. Fiorentini turned it down last year, believing the city had reach its time limit and preferred to save its money to purchase a 29.4-acre Brandy Brow Road parcel closer to the Millvale Reservoir watershed.

Resident Christine Kwitchoff, however alerted the city the state’s COVID-19-related state of emergency waived deadlines. Essex County Greenbelt also stepped up to defray the cost. Essex County Greenbelt’s portion is primarily hayfields while the city’s portion is primarily woods.

Greenbelt’s Assistant Director of Conservation Vanessa Johnson said previously the group is interested creating walking trails in that area along the river which would include signage and downloadable maps.

The Council approved the purchase by a 7-0 vote with Councilors Michael S. McGonagle and Joseph J. Bevilacqua absent.

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