Town seeks $250,000 to preserve land

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The Batchelder Farm

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, January 11, 2011

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online]
Batchelder Farm on Exeter Road in Hampton
[Courtesy photo]

HAMPTON Selectmen are sponsoring a warrant article to ask voters for $250,000 in March to go toward ongoing efforts by the Conservation Commission to protect the historic Batchelder Farm on Exeter Road from future development.

Jay Diener, chairman of the commission, said they are working in partnership with the Southeast Land Trust of New Hampshire to purchase a conservation easement on the property owned by the family.

The total estimated cost of conserving the property — consisting of 120 acres of scenic farmland, uplands and wetlands on the west side of Hampton — is more than $840,000.

"The Batchelder Farm is one of the most unique properties in Hampton and has been a top priority of the Conservation Commission for years" said Diener. "When you look at the historic significance of the property, in addition to its value for local agriculture, as wildlife habitat and for watershed protection, this is a very special part of Hampton that is important to preserve."

Diener said the town and the Southeast Land Trust will apply this spring for more than $400,000 matching grant from the Natural Resource Conservation Service Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program.

The commission plans to use $100,000 from its land acquisition fund and ask voters for an additional $250,000 to go towards rasing the matching funds necessary to attain the grant.

In addition, the Southeast Land Trust has secured a $30,000 grant from the "Moose Plate" program and committed to raising $50,000 in private gifts.

Diener said he knows times are tough and they struggled with asking voters to support such an expensive warrant article.

But in the end, it was just too good of an opportunity to pass up.

The land trust, he said, will seek to cover any remaining project costs through private grants and foundations.

Dick Vaile, specialist with the Southeast Land Trust, believes the Batchelder Farm is a great candidate for funding from the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program.

"We expect it will receive the maximum funding possible," Vaile said.

The Batchelder property, he said, is a regional land conservation priority.

The farm has been identified by the Land Conservation Plan for New Hampshire's Coastal Watersheds and the New Hampshire Wildlife Action Plan as being important for maintaining clean water, productive forests, important wildlife habitats, and recreational opportunities.

As one of the largest undeveloped parcels remaining in Hampton, the Batchelder Farm includes approximately 88 acres of prime agricultural soils, including 45 acres of open hay fields.

The open fields on the property are currently farmed by the Hurd family, whose farm was also placed under conservation easement in 2005.

Under the proposed conservation easement, the Batchelder Farm would be protected from development in perpetuity.

The productive soils would remain available for agriculture and forestry, and the land would be available to the public for passive recreation, such as hiking, hunting, birding and cross-country skiing.

The Batchelder family — descendants of the Rev. Stephen Bachiler, who founded the town of Hampton in 1638 — would retain ownership of the land. If they chose to sell their property in the future, the easement would remain in place and could not be removed or altered by new owners.

"[Post Script: Hampton Town Warrant election results from March 8, 2011:
Article 10: Batchelder Property Conserevation easements to preserve land from future development. The estimated 2011 tax rate impact is 8.2 cents per $1,000 valuation. Passed 2,373 in favor, 732 opposed.]"

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