When Harmony Wilson assumed the chair of the Haverhill Conservation Commission four years ago, she couldn’t have realized it would be an era of increased responsibilities for the volunteer body.
The period of great growth in the city saw the Commission scrutinize and place conditions on such projects as Procopio’s plans for 290 Bradford waterfront apartments and retail space, 6,000-panel solar farm in east Haverhill, Howland’s 110,000-square-foot warehouse and trucking operation off Route 97, Bay State Pallet Co.’s two-story, 21,900-square-foot addition in the rear of 293 Neck Road and many others. Wilson also shepherded through the reviews with the added obstacles imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. While she plans to stay involved, Wilson recently decided to hand the gavel over.
“Little did I know when I was first elected as chairperson in January 2019 the unprecedented challenges we were going to be faced with. I take great pride in all that we have accomplished together as a Commission, especially during the pandemic. When many communities paused reviewing projects, we kept at it,” she wrote in an email to fellow commissioners.
Looking ahead though, she hinted at many more projects that require careful consideration. “Our work protecting the community’s natural resources is paramount to the future generations of Haverhill.”
These include final conditions being placed on plans to remove the Little River dam near Lafayette Square, redevelopment of the former Haverhill Paperboard and final closing of the city’s Old Groveland Road landfill.
Conservation Commission Vice Chairman and Community Liaison Ralph T. Basiliere acknowledged the depth of Wilson’s commitment under often difficult circumstances. In a statement, he said, “The Conservation Commission is grateful for the integrity and stoicism that defined Mrs. Wilson’s tenure. It proved wise having her at the helm during historic challenges.”
As second in command, Basiliere is considered a leading contender to assume the Commission’s chairmanship. He said, however, “Having had time to appreciate my colleagues—any of whom would make a good chair—I’m unwilling to make predictions.”