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April 11, 2007 Meeting Minutes
Natural Resources Preservation Committee
A subcommittee of the Conservation Commission/Inland Wetlands Watercourse Agency

Minutes - Regular Meeting                                                               April 11, 2007
Melrose Schoolhouse, Route 140                                                  7:00 p.m.

I.      Attendance:   A. Grant, G. Grant, M. Kovalcek, J. Warren, L. Whitten
II.     Call to Order: 7:09 p.m.
III.    Agenda Additions: Report on Land Trust Convocation attended by A. Grant.        
IV.     Approval of Minutes:
                Minutes approved after capitalization correction. Motion to approve made by A.G., second M.K. Passed unanimously no discussion.
        V.      Continued Business
Agenda taken out of order so L. Whitten may present information and updates regarding the ag viability grant
                A.  L. Whitten distributed repeat copies of the grant application and the actual grant language. The most important portion was Attachment A, a synopsis of the “Project Scope of Work”. The grant requires a timeline to be shown for all activities related and all committee members should document time spent on the agricultural portion of the NRPC activities. J.W. will work on a log all members could use to track time spent on the phone, in research or other activities. L. Whitten spoke of specific contractors in mind to do the GIS consulting portion of the work. Aerial photos will be matched to confirm land used for agriculture locally. Any data anyone has regarding farm activity would inform the process, so members will review what they know regarding specific farms and agricultural products. L. Whitten believes the metadata exists we just must use several sources to extract it. Several recommendations were made including contacting fertilizer sales operations.

Another portion of the grant includes creating zoning regulations for farmland to make conservation easier. A survey of landowners with land classified as 490 (farmland for tax purposes) is considered. Discussion at the May meeting will include if we can use money for printing and postage from the ag grant. L. Whitten will research and report. Survey questions and contacts will be discussed at that point. G.G. pointed out we must make sure we include data from farmers who lease land. M.K. wanted us to be sure to effectively communicate our desire to preserve our agricultural heritage and support of agribusiness in any communication. The parcel map data is less than two years old.

L. Whitten can request half of the grant money upfront for the following activities:
                1) Hiring consultant for GIS portion
                2) Buy aerial photographs
She will research the feasibility of a survey to determine a farmland inventory. A subcommittee could be formed to speed the process of putting a plan into action between scheduled meetings. J.W. will e-mail the member list so L.W. may contact us to establish possible other meeting times or “brainstorming sessions” as we determine.
There was a discussion of classification of agricultural lands and their values. Soil data can be used to prioritize more desirable farmland to work to conserve. NRPC and town have a list of property and CLEAR data is contained in the report NRPC provided to the Finance Committee and the town and is continually updated on the CLEAR website. L. Whitten will order the aerial ATT/SBC flybys. Those photos have a higher resolution than what can be found on the web and will provide better data.  A.G. made a motion for purchase of the ATT 2006 aerial data. G.G. second. Motion passed unanimously with no further discussion.

The discussion next moved on to modifying our open space rating criteria to suit agriculture specifically. The committee has several models in its archives from the committee’s origin as a farmland preservation group. J.W. will bring the archived work and others will also search their records and the committee will review them at their May meeting. G.G. stressed that other criteria (proximity to other conserved land, cultural carrying capacity, etc) might still be considered but weighted less for this purpose. Elizabeth Moore with CT Farmland Trust relayed to L. Whitten her recommendation for a prompt trial rating several properties. From this exercise we can then confidentially target valued properties and at that point can begin speaking with particular landowners and offer other public information.

B.      Open Space Public Information Campaign
Would grow out of the activities referred to in the first portion of the meeting.

                C.   Agenda Addition
A. Grant reported on Convocation of the Land Trust. The value of mapping was widely discussed and recommended. Legislative action agenda will focus on non-profit lobby rules regarding land conservation. UConn professor presented a survey of 4 towns with different demographics regarding the estimated value of working land to CT residents. There was a 47% response rate, with very carefully crafted survey methods. Farmland being currently farmed was shown to be less of a priority to residents~ why preserve what is already active? The data will be published din the near future. A.G. Felt he was a great presenter and might be a good speaker to have a public info event.
        VI.     New Business:  Farmland criteria and possible survey will be the agenda items for the May 9, 2007 meeting. Additionally several members gave their copies of the NRPC report to public officials and we must arrange to have more copies made.

        VII.    Adjournment  Motion to adjourn made by M.K., second by J.W. All in favor no discussion. Adjourned at 9:05.