To the editor:

I want to thank The Daily News for reporting (Monday, Dec. 30) on the public hearings regarding the sale of the Plumer Barton land at 277 High Road in Newbury. When a property owned by the family of an original Newbury settler for 11 generations is sold for subdivision it should definitely make the paper.

I would also like to publicly thank the Newbury Board of Selectmen for taking the extraordinary step of requesting an extension from the seller James Connolly, and the buyers, Mark DePiero and John Morris. The selectmen clearly understand the Cottage Road and Lower Green neighbors do not want this land developed, nor do those folks who care about the history of the Plumer family and Newbury’s first English settlers. Given the town’s repeated failure to adopt the Community Preservation Act, it must be especially galling to listen to Newbury residents mourning the irrevocable loss of yet another Newbury asset.

Reporter Jennifer Solis did a heroic job of trying to explain the mechanics of land purchase under the rules of Chapter 61A, but I need to correct or clarify some of the information reported which may lead readers to believe that I and the others trying to purchase the land for a conservation burial ground want the town of Newbury to pay for it and maintain it as town property. This is not accurate or true.

Given the complications of securing a loan in such short time for a group that does not have 501(c)3 nonprofit status for land that will lose monetary value the moment it is placed in conservation left us asking for the “Hail Mary” play of the town covering the sale to stop the deadline clock, with the explicit understanding that the town would then be reimbursed for the purchase by a conservation nonprofit. It doesn’t bear too much examination because it was never a truly viable option but, to be clear, at no time were we asking the town of Newbury to buy the land and maintain a town-owned cemetery.

It has always been the intention of our group (now officially called the Newbury Conservation and Preservation Society) to either create and maintain the conservation burial ground ourselves or (more likely) partner with a green-burial corporation which would pay for the land and run the burial ground for profit. Because of the revenue from the sale of burial plots, the land – while in protected conservation – would help pay for itself.

I am not advocating for the first public cemetery in Newbury; I am advocating for the first conservation green burial ground in the state of Massachusetts. I hope that the model we would create if successful would allow for the conservation in other communities of other lands too expensive to save.

We still have nine days to raise the money to keep this land open. If anyone would like more information or to make a donation pledge, please feel free to email me at newburyconservationburial@gmail.com

Michele Augeri

Newbury

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