2/11/10: Commentary in Lexington Minuteman by Janet Kern

Commentary that appeared on the Editorial Page of the Lexington Minuteman on 2/11/10

“Now that the question of whether the abutting property to Busa Farm will be sold to the Town (it will not), the Selectmen can finally proceed in forming the Master Planning Committee promised at Town Meeting last May – to make a recommendation on the use of the 7.9-acre working farm purchased by the Town with CPA funds.

And it is finally time for a direct answer by the Selectmen to the question of whether a farming interest – and specifically the Lexington Community Farm Coalition (LexFarm) – will have an equal voice and vote on that committee alongside other land use interests.

In the absence of any Town committee to represent agricultural interests in Lexington, LexFarm should fill that representative role. Since May of last year, the group has provided information about community farming through its website (www.lexfarm.org)  and by hosting several educational forums in Town. Further, LexFarm has garnered over 1000 signatures of Lexington residents who support using the Busa Farm property for a community farm and has brought voice to the growing numbers of residents concerned about their food sources and who recognize that local, working farms are vital to a healthy, sustainable future.

Yet to date there has been no acknowledgement by the Selectmen of the group’s rightful place on the Master Planning Committee that will decide the use of Busa Farm. This must change immediately.

Residents need to know their government is open, transparent, fair and balanced.  This means that everyone is not only allowed a voice, but encouraged to get involved and be active in the local issues most important to them. It means that when a decision-making process is defined, any citizen can follow the debate and understand the resulting decision. And it means that one interest group is not given preference or access over another.

In this case, the Town had already turned away from considering the Busa property’s primary use as farmland or conservation, when it had plans developed focused on ball fields and affordable housing for its presentation to the Community Preservation Committee and made them public only days before asking for a vote on the purchase by Town Meeting. Citizens were told that a Master Planning Committee would be formed to recommend the land use, but no information has been forthcoming regarding how the Selectmen will determine the appropriate composition of the committee.

As a result, many in town have worried that the land-use decision for Busa Farm is a fait-accompli. The burden is now on the Selectmen to prove this is not true – that in fact, a fair, open process of making that decision will begin, and it will begin with full and fair representation by all valid land use interests on the Master Planning Committee.”

Janet Kern