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River Road residents share concerns about Sharon Land Trust plans

SHARON — Asking for greater transparency in the planning process guiding the Sharon Land Trust’s planned conservation easement on acreage on Dawn Hill Road (and plans to create a hiking trail there), River Road residents attended the Board of Selectmen’s meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 26, to voice their concerns directly to the town and to representatives of the land trust.

Residents were already concerned about an overflow or cars parked along River Road, with visitors there to enjoy the Housatonic River and the Appalachian Trail.

The increased numbers of visitors meant that cars blocked driveways and River Road.

At present, the land trust representatives said, two parking spaces are planned for the 63-acre Dawn Hill conserved property. Residents of River Road and Dawn Hill said they fear additional impact as people come to take advantage of the proposed hiking trail. The land would be conserved with help from a state grant; the state requires public access for properties it helps protect.

Recognizing residents’ concerns, the selectmen invited the Sharon Land Trust (SLT) to attend their meeting to hear those concerns and to open the door to more dialogue. Representing the SLT at the meeting were co-vice presidents Chris Clow and Roger Liddell.

“We are seeking a solution that works for all,” First Selectman Brent Colley said, acknowledging that the property owners are concerned about the volume of traffic, parking, speeding and access for emergency vehicles.

Any plans for a larger recreation area at Dawn Hill might draw even more cars to the area, Colley said as he summarized concerns.

Saying that the SLT’s protection of the Dawn Hill property could disrupt their quality of life, 10 road residents attended the selectmen’s meeting to ask that they be informed about the SLT plans and that they be heard in regard to their concerns.

Describing plans for the Dawn Hill property, Clow termed it a conservation easement, indicating that state funds purchase the development rights, but the property owner still owns the land. There would be very little signage pointing visitors toward the two parking spaces, Clow said.

Colley described the selectmen’s meeting as “the start of a conversation” among those involved. “We can figure something out.”

One River Road resident suggested that a committee of residents could meet with the SLT to remain informed about the process and ensure that their concerns are heard.

Selectman Dale Jones suggested that the SLT initiate a policy of advance notification of neighbors when any project is being proposed. Because the public is being affected, it becomes a public issue, he said.

Colley suggested that a public meeting might be useful to determine what information can and should be provided to area residents as part of the acquisition and site planning process.

Technology upgrade

With a view toward enhanced cybersecurity, resident Meghan Flanagan recommended a committee be formed to consider a technology upgrade for Town Hall. Such an upgrade could provide for working and meeting remotely, including capacity for hybrid meetings. She encouraged the selectmen to name a committee to review options and identify funding sources.

ARPA funding

Reviewing progress of the ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funding committee, Jill Drew reported that applications are beginning to come in and she asked that the selectmen agree to a deadline of Jan. 15 to submit applications. She indicated that her committee is preparing a survey and creating application forms to be available in English and Spanish to be used by individuals and organizations.

A community meeting will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 1, beginning at 6:30 p.m., when the ARPA committee will provide information on the process.

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