Southampton voters OK conserving 730 acres at special Town Meeting

Southampton Town Hall  angle

Southampton Town Hall angle


Staff Writer

Published: 12-08-2023 12:09 PM

SOUTHAMPTON — At a special Town Meeting this week, the town unanimously approved spending about $420,000 to permanently conserve 731 acres as part of the Mountain Waters Project.

“This is a great day for Southampton,” Cindy Palmer, chair of the Open Space Committee, said at the meeting. “We have the opportunity to protect in perpetuity hundreds of acres of wild woodlands, agricultural lands and open space.”

The Mountain Waters Project — a collaboration between the town of Southampton, Kestrel Land Trust, landowners and other groups — seeks to protect a total of 1,025 acres in Southampton, Westhampton and Montgomery over the next two years.

The lands will be conserved for passive recreation, wildlife protection, drinking water protection, and will join a larger conservation initiative stretching multiple states into Canada.

“Future generations will thank us for what we can achieve tonight,” Palmer said, adding that in Southampton, protected land will include 150 acres at the summit of Pomeroy Mountain, 77 acres at Glendale Ridge Vineyard, and nearly 400 acres of woodlands on the northwest border of the town.

One of those landowners, Justin Smith, has a long history with his 238-acre parcel. Growing up, he fished, camped, hiked and played on the property.

“This is an incredibly special place to me,” Smith said. “It’s surrounded by thousands of acres of watershed land and state forest… I’m thrilled to be working with Kestrel Land Trust to protect this land into the future.”

Approval of the $420,688 of Community Preservation Act funds, which were already available in the account, opens up $2.3 million in state and private funding for the project, said Palmer.

Other funds

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Voters at the meeting approved a transfer of $119,766.50 to the police department operating budget, with a good portion of those funds recognizing new duties police officers have now that the town’s communications center is regionalizing with Easthampton.

Also approved was a transfer of $20,000 for fire and EMS expenses to pay ambulance costs and to replace fire engine tires; $36,000 to the assessor department to pay the interim assessors payroll; $16,571.94, amended down from $21,227, for general highway expenses; $6,000 from the group health insurance account to the unemployment operating budget; and $19,195 for the health department to cover the expense of a contracted health agent.

The town took no action on Articles 8 through 11 on the Town Meeting warrant, due to a lack of certification of free cash by the state by the time of the meeting.

Attendees voted in favor of the establishment of an opioid stabilization account, into which funds received by the town from opioid litigation settlements will be transferred.

Town Administrator Ed Gibson said the account will “carry those funds forward for use for substance prevention and education,” rather than ending up in free cash.

Voters also approved $98,000 to purchase a new student transportation van for Norris Elementary School, along with $6,500 to replace water-damaged ceiling tiles at the school, as part of a continuing project to repair the roof.

The town also allowed the transfer of $17,339.70 to purchase a new ton truck with a plow and sander; the purchase was approved in 2021, but Ford canceled the order and the price has since increased.


After a small clarifying amendment, voters approved Article 18 and 19, which establish new bylaws about membership on boards, committees, commissions and councils.

“The bylaw committee’s intent of the proposed bylaws… is to provide guidance and consistency among and between all the town committees,” said Francine Tishman, chair of the Bylaw Review Advisory Committee.

The town also voted to rescind and accept a more modernized Massachusetts General law that puts how the fire department runs in line with the police department.

Some members of the public took issue with the new law, saying that there is no reason to involve the Select Board in the hiring, staffing and staff management decisions of the fire department.

“I think for clarification purposes, it’s clear that it will function exactly the way it does with the police department, that the approval of the Select Board would be based on the recommendation of the chief,” said Tishman, adding that the law doesn’t take authority out of the hands of the fire chief, rather adds another layer of approval or disapproval on top of the hiring process.

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