|Letter to the editor from Tim Knedler|
Lisa and I sent a letter to the select board as well as town officials on February 8, 2021, regarding the Intervale Ball Field Project and have not heard a word from them about our concerns, not even an acknowledgement. This project does not fit with the Town of New Gloucester Comprehensive Plan, it does not fit with the mission of the Royal River Conservation Trust (RRCT) as this is clearly development, and it will forever diminish the value of the Intervale because once a project like this takes root, others inevitably follow.
With each passing day it becomes more and more evident that the Royal River Conservation Trust has made a mistake by partnering with the commercial enterprise known as Gray-New Gloucester Little League (GNGLL) in their quest to develop approximately 10 acres of the iconic New Gloucester Intervale. We think they owe the community an explanation.
Please note that the footprint of this development project lies within the FEMA 100 Year Flood Map zone (see below).
In addition, according to the Town of New Gloucester Zoning Map dated May 5, 2017, the location is in a Resource Protection Zoning District (see below). Most, if not all, of this proposed development will take place in wetlands and Wetlands of Special Significance and their associated buffers as well as Inland Wading Bird & Waterfowl Habitat.
The plan below is what was presented to my wife Lisa by GNGLL’s Steve Libby and Nate Stone on October 25, 2020. The map is dated September 4, 2020 and already shows the “new” Intervale Ball Field Complex Concept Plan with a large footprint and boardwalk to a third field behind our home. The Intervale Ball Field Complex Concept Plan shows GNGLL and RRCT as the client:
As of Monday, April 5, RRCT had a different map on its website (see below), but at least it suggested the scale of the project and showed three ball fields going into the area:
As of today, April 16, there are no maps on the RRCT website that show the ballfields development. During his presentation to the New Gloucester Select Board on April 7, 2021 and on the Royal River Conservation Trust Facebook page on April 7, 2021 at 8:52 PM, executive director Alan Stearns stated that, “In fact I am here today, alongside the Little League, proudly shoulder to shoulder, inviting public collaboration and teamwork.” If this is the case, then proudly show the concept plan development maps on the RRCT website, just as GNGLL does on their website (see map below). This begs the question of transparency on the part of RRCT in regard to their donors, stakeholders, and supporters. Visitors to the RRCT website should not have to rely on cross-posted information.
There are also questions about the need for this facility in this location. As a point of reference, the GNGLL Field Directory lists 27 regional sites plus a TBD site. Eleven out of the 27 sites have multiple fields. Sixteen fields are located in Gray-New Gloucester. According to town tax maps, GNGLL already owns 18 acres on Bennett and Swamp Roads that is ideally suited for this project (map_lot0002-0033 and -0033-A). The land has been disturbed. Its location near the turnpike alleviates noise and light pollution concerns, destruction of wetlands and wildlife habitat, and encroachment on residences. Interestingly, that property is currently on the market.
At the Intervale site, wildlife habitat is already being lost on the proposed field. On March 9, 2021, a skid steer operator cut a 10 to 20 foot wide swath that measures approximately 900 linear feet around most of the perimeter of the existing grassy field. What more will be done prior to the Town of New Gloucester’s Planning Board hearing their proposal and the citizens of New Gloucester having the opportunity to weigh in?
Some of the most disturbing details about this proposed project are publicly available on the GNGLL board Meeting Minutes. Of particular interest are the March 23, 2021 minutes where on pages 3-5 the “NGX/Ballfield Update” is discussed.
“Steve [Libby] had a meeting with the code officer and it took five minutes to establish that we’re fine. They want to see the final wetlands laid out before they put it in writing, but their opinion that this is a pretty straightforward yes.”
The minutes also state that “DEP is on board. The neighbors are mostly opposed because they’d rather not be bothered in any way.”
Additionally the minutes state that, “And we’re definitely going to be selling Bennett Road, which is $100k, right there in the bank. And RRCT has raised some good money already, something like $500k, which we get some of.”
As an abutter, the following statement is particularly alarming: “Sam Motion: To reaffirm and move forward aggressively with the Intervale Fields plan, in a combined effort with Royal River Conservation Trust, committed to promoting fundraising and to support the plan with the planning board or any other stakeholder when it comes in front of decision-makers. The preliminary fundraising goal will be $500,000.”
Another environmental concern is whether pesticides will be applied on the Intervale field. Pesticides are used to control weeds at other locations, according to the minutes:
- Met with Dean, Nellie, Mo, & Assistant Town Manager
“Didn’t tell us no, and the fields are getting there. Hope is that they’ll let us on there ASAP. They’ve got a new tractor, will do more mowing, and they’ve got the spraying license to kill weeds, which is excellent.”
Lastly, the long-term viability of GNGLL appears to be in question. This raises concerns about care and upkeep of the ballfield portion of this development. The notes in the minutes include this:
“Existential Threats from Travel Ball“
- Is LL doomed?
- Should we consider moving the nature of our organization?
- LL just a “tournament” people qualify for
At this point, it appears that these organizations have little regard for the impact of this development on neighbors, wild and domestic.
557 Intervale Road
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