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Politics in the Ugliest Form

There is an item on the agenda for this month's town meeting on May 18 that needs to be called into question. It is regarding a piece of property that the town has already voted on and they voted against allowing development of that property. If it has already been voted down, how did it get on again? Here's how, it seems: politics in its ugliest form. Politics that I tend to hope stays out of small towns, remaining relegated to the dog-eat-dog arena of Washington.
Call it coincidence, and call me overly-suspicious, but here's the truth: the land in question is town land that happens to be connected to land owned by a local contractor/developer. And it is on the agenda again at the urging of the same selectman.
It is on the agenda again (reminding you that it has already been voted down!) with an unsavory and unfair twist: emotional heartstrings. It is being proposed that this land be donated to a local vet to build a house. But again, I point out that the town already voted down giving this developer the land to build because it is part of swatch of woodlands that the town chooses to preserve. Twisting it with emotional content does not change the fact that we already spoke our wishes on the land, and is an underhanded political tactic. It also, to no small point, calls into question the effectiveness of this town's form of government: if our unanimous vote on this piece of land is so easily disregarded, then what difference do our voices make?
If a selectman can just turn around, spin a different angle on the same piece of agenda and get it on again, then it suggests our voices, our wishes and our vote as citizens are meaningless.
So I have two points to make. One: Why is this the only piece of land being proposed as a donation? I am quite certain there are a number of properties available by the town for donation as I believe the idea in itself is a wonderful one. I bet (I'm not certain, but think it warrants investigation) that there is town land even more suited to donation in that it will not require new roads built, new utilities dug and installed aren't there? Are there no town-owned properties more ready for building? Properties or land that are build-ready with utilities already run from the street, or even homes that simply need renovating? I cannot believe that this piece of land is the only place suitable for donation. The fact that no other town-owned land is being considered or presented for a vote further raises suspicion as to the motivation of selectman and does nothing to convince me that it really is a selfless act of wanting to donate to a vet.
Two: Let's talk heartstrings. If they can play that card, so can we. This land is rife with wildlife. We bought the house we are in four years ago precisely because of the woods behind it (which we mistakenly thought was preserved already) and have spent these last four years observing the wondrous habitat/ecosystem that it is.
As a homeschooler, our son has had wonderful opportunities to learn of ecosystems in our own backyard as we watch generations of rabbits, groundhogs, hawks and woodpeckers make their home there. It is a migration route for a herd of local deer that we see each winter and spring, and because it is so wet, we have even witnessed ducks roosting when areas are turned into ponds in heavy rains.
If we are to play with heartstrings, it goes both ways: allowing development here displaces or even destroys a huge population of wildlife as well as destroying a natural educational playground all children in the neighborhood benefit from.
I am all for donating land to a local vet I think it's wonderful someone thought of it. I question the motivation of it, however, as it conveniently brings back a piece of land that was already voted down for development. I am all for donating land to a local vet but I would like all town properties available to be considered.
I would like, as a resident, to be given a choice of locations to vote on. Let's give this man a home, but not by destroying someone else's be it by destroying the homes of wildlife, or the backyard of other residents. And let's donate to a vet because it is the right thing to do, not because of questionable political maneuverings and against the already-established wishes of town residents. Let us make it a truly good and selfless act for someone the town is proud of rather than a backdoor political dealing that invalidates the voices and votes of the rest of us.
I also propose a different vote. Who in town would like to submit this piece of land as protected wetlands? I'd like to see that vote. I have a feeling I know which way it would go. I'll go on record now as saying "yay" to that. Now let's hear from the rest of the town.
Melissa Volker
East Longmeadow



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