The Case for Conservation
“Cows and trees don’t ride school buses …”
Š The Town of Dartmouth and related non-profits like DNRT have a long history of successful conservation efforts, both for active farms, and for open spaces and woodlands generally. But we need to do even more – before endless growth becomes “suburban sprawl,” as properties that have not been preserved are rapidly being sub-divided and developed.
Š We should actively encourage (even subsidize, financially) conservation restrictions. Ideally, such restrictions should be held jointly by two parties: the Town, and an appropriate non-profit (e.g. DNRT, Trustees of Reservations, etc). Note that the landowner still owns the property (assuming they wish to); the Town and the non-profit entity can hold the restriction, and have the joint responsibility to inspect & enforce it.
Š As explained in other parts of this web site, the “cost benefit” to the Town of preserved land is enormous, both financially and environmentally:
1. Preserved open space that cannot be subdivided saves the Town from perpetually losing money while providing new services to subdivisions – especially education – but also all the other costs involving a growing labor force. “Cows and trees don’t ride school buses,” nor do they require the police, fire, and other departments to increase their staff.
2. Speaking of education, it would be ideal to increase school funding, whenever possible, on a “per student basis.” Obviously, intelligently spending more per pupil can improve many aspects of our already good schools. However, increasing the number of students in our schools (as happens with subdivisions) actually lowers per student support, unless the Town spends even MORE money. Growing our school population through subdivisions is a losing proposition, both financially and educationally.
3. Equally clear are the immense environmental benefits of permanently protecting as much of our remaining open space as possible. Notably, Dartmouth also has substantial opportunity to redevelop, restore, and improve our existing homes, businesses, parking lots, and other infrastructure.
4. As sea level rises, and global warming intensifies other weather events - such as flooding - preserved land is, by far, the best protection for our Town, as is true everywhere else. We should never build in open space or woodlands close to the water or at low elevations.
5. Farming – of every kind – deserves special protection for all the reasons noted above as well as for its own sake, in terms of the historic and rural character of much of our Town. Zoning and land use policies should make farm preservation a top priority. More and permanent conservation restrictions on farms is a great place to start.
6. Farmers (especially) and other owners of large tracts of land deserve to optimize the value of their land – but not at the expense of the community, nor the Town generally. Subdivisions that increase population drive up other citizen’s costs – substantially. By contrast, future uses such as solar arrays done properly may be “win-win” propositions, creating lasting value for the landowner and developer, along with lower electricity costs for the community.
7. As presently written, Dartmouth’s zoning laws are not strong enough environmentally. Three important places to improve might include:
a) Prevent the construction of any new dwelling unit via subdivision of any parcel that is closer than “x-miles, laterally, to salt water at high tide.”
b) Prevent the construction of any new dwelling unit via subdivision on any parcel that is lower than “y-feet, vertically, above defined flood level.”
c) Any subdivision that meets all Town regulations (including the above) and is approved must ALSO include buried & fully-resilient utilities of every kind, at the developer’s expense. No utility poles or exposed wiring above ground should be approved.