May 28 2014
Tonight the village holds is annual meeting at Freedom Hall (7:30 pm) to work through the budgets of the fire and water departments and the prudential committee (which takes care of Freedom Hall.) The warrant is pretty much the same from one year to the next -- some years the fire department needs a new ambulance (they need one this year) or the water department wants to build a new water tower (which they did a few years ago in Santuit) -- but most of the items are standard items such as salaries, a small stipend to the library, money for the village street lights and some modifications to the bylaws to bring them into the Internet age so meeting notices can be posted on the district's web site.
This year a special article is on the warrant -- placed there by citizen petition -- to ask the village tax payers to purchase a conservation easement for the 19-acres of woodlands behind Lowell Park -- home field of the Cotuit Kettleers. The price tag is $235,000, about $67 in additional taxes for the typical homeowner.
Ordinarily I would say it isn't the village's "municipal duty" to preserve open space -- that's a charitable effort usually promoted through the good efforts of the Barnstable Land Trust and private donors -- but this is a crucial investment towards preserving the character of the village and keeping intact an extraordinary greenway that runs from Little River Road past the Bell Farm conservation lands, past Mosswood Cemetery all the way up to the wonderful curve at the Ropes Field. It saves the pristine, uninterrupted outfield of the best ballpark in the Cape Cod Baseball League and it will present a good buffer for the well field. This is the sort of thing my grandparents and great grandparents would have done and I say it is our duty to dig into our pockets and do the same for future generations. Cotuit has a proud history of doing the right thing and this is the right thing to do.
The Barnstable Land Trust is pushing for a Yes vote on Article 19 and with good justification. First of all, this keeps nine homes and their septic systems away from one of the most important sources of our drinking water. Last summer Cotuit had its first "boil order" after the drinking water failed a test. Across the street from Lowell Park, is a dilapidated home that has been a battleground between a local developer and residents -- he wanted to subdivide the property into condos, but eventually gave up after letting the place deteriorate into an eyesore. It also abuts a well field and the village has purchased the conservation restriction to insure no septic systems get built too close to the water supply.
I'd argue that this is the sort of thing that improves property values in the village and is a great investment in our future. The article is going to come to a vote later in the meeting (it is 19 out of 24) and it's the duty of any concerned property owner with an interest in the village to get off their butts and show up. Cotuit's Fire District is essential to keep the village's individual identity intact and to give its residents a truly local voice in the management of the place. While the calls for consolidation into a single Town of Barnstable system continue to be heard in the name of efficiency and economy, we Cotusions need to keep in mind that our Fire District -- granted to us by the legislature in the 1920s -- gives us a degree of sovereign autonomy and control over our affairs that once given up, can't be regained.