Ipswich, MA, Could Protect Historic Open Space

Ipswich, Massachusetts: Today, the Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced that it has reached an agreement to purchase the 102-acre Wendel Estate on Jeffrey’s Neck Road. Under the terms of the agreement, TPL will acquire the property for $4 million from the Wendel Realty Trust in May. TPL then hopes to sell a conservation restriction over the land to the Town of Ipswich, permanently protecting the property’s scenic views and natural resources. Once the restriction is in place, TPL plans to sell the restricted property to a private buyer.

“Several weeks ago, the Board of Selectmen asked for TPL’s assistance in protecting the Wendel Estate, and we are delighted to be involved in the effort to preserve this outstanding property,” explained TPL project manager Craig MacDonnell. “The land stands out as a priority for conservation, not only because of its scenic beauty but because it is a link in a larger corridor of protected land.” The Wendel Estate lies immediately adjacent to 45 acres owned by the Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and across the street from 213-acre Greenwood Farm, which is protected by The Trustees of Reservations.

“This property is one of the key open space parcels in Ipswich,” stated David Standley, chairman of the Conservation Commission and a member of the Open Space Committee. “Its valuable wildlife habitat, sweeping views of the marsh, and historic structures all contribute greatly to the character of this part of town. We are delighted that TPL now has a signed contract so that we can move forward.”

Last October, Ipswich Town Meeting authorized the Town to spend $3.5 million to purchase the Wendel Estate, but the Town’s offer was rejected. Now, the Town has an opportunity to purchase a conservation restriction for $2 million. Because last fall’s Town Meeting vote did not authorize the Town to purchase a conservation restriction over the Wendel Estate, the Board of Selectman will be asking residents to amend the vote at the April 2 Town Meeting to provide this flexibility. The Town is also pursuing state and federal grants to offset the cost of acquiring the conservation restriction and is hopeful that it may be able to defray a significant portion of its investment.

“This is a fabulous opportunity for the Town,” said Jim Engel, chairman of the Board of Selectmen. “Not only will we be able to protect the Wendel Estate, but we will achieve our goal for significantly less than we had originally anticipated. As an added benefit, protection of the historic structures will be achieved without any specific cost to the Town in this regard.” The Board of Selectmen voted to support the project on February 26, 2001.

The conservation restriction will protect the property’s scenic views, wildlife habitat, water quality, and other natural resources. TPL also plans to place restrictive covenants on the property to protect its three historic “first-period” structures. Although the restriction will prohibit virtually all development, it will allow for the construction of one additional home, to be sited in a sensitive manner.

The $10 million Ipswich Open Space Bond authorization was passed in April 2000 partly due to widespread concern that the Wendel Estate was threatened with imminent development. If approved by Town Meeting, the Town’s acquisition of a conservation easement over the Wendel Estate will be the first project funded with monies from the bond. Many organizations and volunteers have worked hard to achieve this land protection opportunity for the Town, including the Open Space Committee, Historical Commission, Essex County Greenbelt Association, and The Trustees of Reservations.

The Trust for Public Land is a national conservation organization dedicated to protecting land for people to enjoy as parks and open space. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 1.2 million acres nationwide, including nearly 60,000 acres in New England. The Wall Street Journal’s Smart Money Magazine recently named TPL the nation’s most efficient large conservation charity, based on the percentage of funds dedicated to programs. For more information, call TPL’s Boston office at (617) 367-6200 or visit www.tpl.org .