Danforth Farm Proposal Remains Up In The Air

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By: James Kinsella
Published: 07/27/12

Whether a section of the town-owned Danforth property in Marstons Mills and West Barnstable will be used for farming remains an open question.

Barnstable Town Manager Thomas K. Lynch met Wednesday evening at town hall with the Barnstable Agricultural Commission, which backs a plan to revive farming on a 50-acre tract in the western section of the Danforth property.

The commission wants the town to issue a request for proposals from people who would farm the property.

Commissioner Melissa R. Caughey said the RFP ideally would be issued this fall to allow the winning bidder to begin preparing the land.

The town manager, however, must sign off before the town issues such an RFP.

Mr. Lynch said no timeline has been established for a decision on the issue.

Following the meeting Wednesday evening, Mr. Lynch said the land was purchased for open space and conservation.

He said he wants to make certain that converting the tract to farming would not disrupt other interests.

Mr. Lynch said the town Comprehensive Financial Advisory Committee has been asked to determine the highest and best use of the tract, within the property’s open space restrictions, as well as help to determine the viability of a farm at the site.

Speaking of the proposed agricultural use, Mr. Lynch told the commission, “We’ll be taking a good, hard look at it, and be back to you soon.”

William S. Plettner, chairman of the agricultural commission, said the Danforth farming proposal has drawn the support of a number of entitities and organizations, including the Centerville-Osterville-Marstons Mills Water District, the town conservation commission, the Barnstable Land Trust, the Marstons Mills Village Association, the West Barnstable Civic Association, the Indian Ponds Association, and the Association to Preserve Cape Cod.

He said town councilors Janice Barton and John Norman, both of Marstons Mills, also support the proposal.

The agricultural commission previously modified details of the farming proposal in an effort to meet the concerns of neighbors in the abutting Mystic Meadows subdivision.

At present, neighbors in the Mystic Meadows Association oppose farming on the site.

In an e-mail yesterday morning to Mr. Lynch, Mystic Meadows association member Michael J. Princi wrote that the group opposes the RFP because the association sees no economic benefit for the town.

Mr. Princi further wrote that additional town resources would be required to supervise and review the performance of any RFP at a time when the town already is understaffed.

Barnstable Town Councilor June M. Daley of Marstons Mills, whose precinct includes the proposed farmland, also opposes the proposal.

In an interview yesterday afternoon, Ms. Daley cited the opposition of the neighbors.

She also said the nature trails through the property are heavily used by walkers and mountain bicyclists.

She further questioned whether fencing could be erected on public land bought for open space.

A farm is a great idea, the councilor said, “but not on this property.”

Mr. Plettner said yesterday that the commission’s charge is to promote agriculture.

“We saw this opportunity,” Mr. Plettner said of the tract in question.“It was farmland. It’s good farmland. It is a logical place to put a farm.”

The farm, he said, could generate lease income for the town.

Mr. Plettner also spoke of the importance of growing local food for local consumers.

Demand for local food, he said, is outstripping supply.

“There aren’t enough local farms,” he said.

To the knowledge of the agricultural commission, Mr. Plettner said, only the Mystic Meadows Association and Ms. Daley are opposed to the project.

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