Voters at a Special Town Meeting on Tuesday night approved spending $25,000 toward a land deal that would purchase and conserve a 142-acre parcel atop Tucker Mountain as well as another 493 acres atop nearby Woodchuck Mountain. Both parcels are owned by members of the Leach family.
The 135-83 vote followed about an hour of debate in Tuesday’s meeting.
Town Clerk Susan Underwood said attendance was about double what is typically seen at Town Meetings. Newbury has about 2,155 residents.
“There was definitely a fair amount of debate,” she said.
Bob Linck, the central Vermont director for the Vermont Land Trust, said on Wednesday the group is trying to raise $461,000 to make the deal happen, and has about $375,000 in grants and other commitments lined up.
“We are very pleased with the turnout,” he said of the Newbury vote. “It’s clearly a show of support for the town’s acquisition of the Leach family properties, and it means that we are one step closer to ensuring that Tucker Mountain, the West Branch of Halls Brook and its watershed, and hundreds and hundreds of acres of productive forestland are potentially going to become public land, to the benefit of the residents of the town of Newbury.”
Linck said the next steps include raising the final $86,000 required for the deal and working closely with the Newbury Selectboard and Conservation Commission to create an interim management plan for the property.
Some residents had raised concerns that converting the privately owned land to a town forest could leave the town with ongoing maintenance costs and lost tax revenue.
The Vermont Land Trust said the foregone municipal tax revenue would be about $6,100 annually, but that could be offset by the sale of timber as the parcels are managed over time.
News staff writer John Gregg can be reached at email@example.com.