The Town of Guilford has a long tradition of preserving the land, which has helped both to define its character and to safeguard its natural resources. Local surveys have consistently shown that the historic and natural character of the city are two of the main reasons people want to live and work in Guilford.
According to the Town of Guilford’s 2010 Natural Resources Inventory, âOpen space provides the framework for discovering, enjoying and accessing our natural assets. In addition to prioritizing the protection of our working agricultural lands, the most important open spaces for natural resources are those that protect public sources of drinking water and critical habitats such as forests and unfragmented fields. The Planning and Zoning Commission Building Study (2002) indicated that of Guilford’s approximately 30,000 acres, approximately 7,500 acres are set aside for open space and approximately 8,100 acres remain private vacant land. It is on this vacant and undeveloped land that there would be opportunities to further protect Guilford’s natural resources. While the environmental and recreational benefits of preserving open spaces are obvious, the many economic benefits are often less obvious. Numerous independent studies have shown that over time, compared to residential development, open space is one of the most effective tools a municipality can use to stabilize its tax base. Examples include: Open spaces supporting industries (tourism and others) that can generate thousands of dollars in economic activity each year, reducing the costs of infrastructure and public programs (roads, schools, emergency services), reducing thus the need to increase property taxes. And well-planned open space protection measures should not conflict with meeting other vital city needs, such as economic development, municipal fiscal health and affordable housing. All are principles promoted by our Conservation and Development Plan.
In 2000, the City of Guilford approved a $ 5 million bond authority to fund future land acquisition. For more than two decades, the authorization has been used specifically for 11 properties, which include the Braemore reserve, the Meyerhuber reserve, the James Valley reserve and the Dudley reserve, using 91% of the authorization funds. In addition, it has been available to allow the city to negotiate purchases with the assurance of funding, while ultimately receiving funding from grants and other third parties. Voters will have a chance to vote on a proposed bond measure, recently approved by the Board of Selectmen, that would secure $ 10 million in funding for land acquisition. The resolution allocates $ 7.5 million for Class A properties, open space and farmland, and $ 2.5 million for Class B and C lands, active recreation and municipal use. The authorization has NO cost to the taxpayer or the city until it is actually funded and when used the interest rates are affordable. If the bond is approved by voters, the Land Acquisition Commission (LAC) will be able to prepare recommendations for specific plots of land as they come up for sale. Each future purchase proposed by the LAC must be approved by both Selectman’s board and finance board and by the city assembly, allowing for several phases of monitoring and public comment during the process. In the interest of having knowledgeable citizens ready to vote on this issue, the LAC will be releasing a series of educational pieces by April.
In the meantime, residents with questions can contact: Gary MacElhiney: 203-640-9969 Kevin Clark: 203-843-5315 Kim Brocket: 203-627-5885 Or any member of the Land Acquisition Commission.