Land Trust acquires property next to Dodge Cemetery
The big news coming out at the Jan. 13 meeting of the Land Trust came during the Treasurer’s report section of the meeting. Barby Michel reported that last month the Trust had received $412,000 in transfer fees from the sale of two properties.
While the larger sale — that of the development rights to Payne Farm — brought in substantial amounts, the proceeds were also used to offset the cost of purchasing those rights. (The purchase was made with funds coming from several organizations).
While that sale was widely publicized by both the Providence Journal and The Block Island Times, the second property recently conserved went unnoticed. In December, the Land Trust closed on the purchase of the Valente property (plat 16, lot 22) off Old Mill Road, an unusual circumstance for which the Land Trust was the buyer and the recipient of the transfer fee. Trustees noted that this was an acquisition that they had been working on for years and would add to the lands already protected in that area, as well as add to the historical value of the small John R. Dodge Cemetery, which is located alongside the property. The Trust purchased the property in a bargain sale of $575,000. On the website for Vision Appraisal, the firm that does the tax valuations for Block Island, the property was last valued at $775,800 and is described as 3.49 acres of vacant land.
According to the website for the Rhode Island Historical Cemetery Commission, the John R. Dodge Cemetery contains 27 burials and 25 inscriptions. The oldest grave is for Mary Littlefield, who was born circa 1784 and died on April 16, 1866. The last to be buried there was Nancy R. Smith, who was born in 1867 and died in 1969. The list of those buried there includes many members of the Rose family, as well as members of the Littlefield and Dodge families. The cemetery is surrounded by a stonewall that was built in 1925 by Daniel H. Rose and in 1934 it was conveyed to the town by Anna Rose and Susie Rose.
As have many town boards and commissions recently, The Land Trust took up the mission of providing the Planning Board with suggested updates to the town’s Comprehensive Plan. While not suggesting any major changes, trustees did recommend cleaning up the language on the desired amount of open space for the island from “about half” as the plan states now to the more specific “50 percent.” They also felt it was necessary to update the acreage currently stated as set aside for open space in light of acquisitions made over the past decade (since the last review and updating of the comprehensive plan). Trustees thought that this should be relatively easy as they, in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy, had updated the inventory a year ago at the request of the Deer Task Force.
In other matters, the trustees opened bids for mowing and wall clearing and awarded all but a few of them. The bid for mowing a path on the K & H property near the Boat Basin was put on hold pending the application for a permit from the Coastal Resources Management Commission, and another was put on hold pending the approval of the owner of a property for which the Land Trust has an easement. Trustee Harold “Turtle” Hatfield abstained from the vote because he was one of the bidders. The other bidders were REVO and Connelli Land Improvement.
Hatfield also updated the Land Trust on the suggested beach access path near the Ocean View property. Upon an initial review of the plan with the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC), it was suggested that a part of the path should go “tighter along the brush line,” a small diversion from the deer path Hatfield had originally proposed be utilized by widening it to six or eight feet. They also agreed that they should make the Ocean View Foundation a party to the CRMC application in light of a recent property acquisition by that organization, which is in the same area.