Haverhill City Councilors authorized a $75,000 “friendly” taking of a 6.2-acre parcel on Brandy Brow Road along the East Meadow River on Tuesday, as part of the city’s ongoing efforts to buy land in the name of water resource protection.
“We purchased, not too long ago, some property from D&D Realty Trust, so this is the last piece of that puzzle to own,” Public Works Director Robert E. Ward said. “It locks in an area along the East Meadow River in that upper area.”
Because the landowner, Fermata Limited Partnership, agreed to the sale, the city deemed the land purchase “friendly.” In the past, the city has made similar purchases through eminent domain, as in the June 2022 “unfriendly” taking of a $240,000 parcel that James E. Young Jr. and Victoria Angers did not want to part with.
Ward explained to councilors on Tuesday that the Millvale Reservoir supplies more than half the city’s drinking water. The lot is one of the watersheds for the East Meadow River, which feeds the reservoir. “A protected, healthy watershed results in cleaner water downstream, less stress on the water treatment plant, and reduced treatment costs,” Ward wrote in a letter to the Council.
“And really this is part of a tremendous effort by the city, in particular I would say by Mr. Ward, to secure the property out there for generations to come, to protect our water resource area,” City Solicitor William D. Cox Jr. said.
Similar to complaints from a March 2021 city meeting, Councilor John A. Michitson expressed concerns that neighbors to the property had not yet been consulted. He recommended that a council committee work to solicit residents’ opinions.
Going forward, the city plans to turn the property into a recreational area, including activities like hiking, Nordic skiing, educational programs and hunting, according to Ward.
“There are some plans for trails and wildlife management. I know Rob Mall was looking at a grant with, I think it was Mass Wildlife, to go in and do some work related to restoring the habitat area for the wildlife,” Ward said.
First, Ward said, the city needs to make the property itself accessible, with one bridge leading to the road in disrepair. “I think the city received a planning grant to replace that, I guess you could call it either a bridge or a culvert over the East Meadow River on Brandy Brow Road, to replace that with a walking bridge so that it would open up for trails in the future.”
Explaining the property’s assessed value of $75,000, Appraiser William A. LaChance wrote in a report that high infrastructure costs, including paving Brandy Brow Road, and the lot’s Water Supply Protection Overlay District zoning made it undesirable for development.
Councilors voted unanimously to buy the land.