Landowners withdraw Mount Tom housing plans for now

  • Donal Carbaugh, a resident of Reservation Road in Easthampton since 2004, stands at the entrance to the private land as well as trails on the Mount Tom Reservation on March 26. Carbaugh was opposed to the subdivision proposal for five homes on land adjacent to the reservation. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Monday, April 26, 2021

EASTHAMPTON — The landowners who have proposed building five houses on their property at the base of Mount Tom are at least temporarily withdrawing their request due to uncertainty whether the land is on a public way.

The proposed development, located at the end of Reservation Road, stirred controversy last month due to its location along the lower portion of Mount Tom.

The project’s opponents planned to voice their dissent at a Tuesday night Planning Board meeting, where the board was set to discuss whether the road meets Fire Department standards for emergency vehicle access. Instead, the property owners withdrew the plans they submitted to the city in December.

According to a 1917 deed, Easthampton sold the road to the state, according to Peter Lane, the attorney representing landowners Suzanne Scallion and Rosemary LePage. According to Lane, “neither the municipality nor the state seem to have a definitive answer” on the road’s ownership.

“So far, I’m not finding anything in the records of a transfer back to the city,” Lane said, which he noted “brings up a lot of questions” for his clients and all properties on Reservation Road.

The landowners plan to return with their request once the road’s ownership is established, according to Lane.

“I would like everyone to understand that this is private property,” Lane said. “My clients remain open to offers for the purchase of this property” by the city, state or other conservation groups.

“If that works out, great,” he said. “If not, we have no choice but to kind of proceed here and figure out what to do with this private property.”

Opponents of the project, including the city’s Pascommuck Conservation Trust, said that the development would pose environmental risks and disrupt people’s enjoyment of Mount Tom. A resident-created petition garnered nearly 1,300 signatures opposing the project.

Some residents have also proposed that the city partner with other environmental groups or the state to purchase the land to prevent development.

The landowners, Suzanne Scallion and Rosemary LePage, said they planned to develop the property in accordance with environmental protections.

The Planning Board will notify residents within 300 feet of Scallion and LePage’s property if they resubmit their plan, according to Jesse Belcher-Timme, chair of the board.