Lantana Land Swap in the News

While the below article notes that the Governor’s website is used as a public forum for discussion rather than a way to get in touch with the Governor Deval Patrick, we will be bringing the petition when we meet with the DCR Commissioner to demonstrate community support. If you haven’t already, visit the Governor’s website and sign the petition. For background on the petition, see our previous post.
For an online version of the below article, please click here.
Lantana Land Deal Foes Take Case to Web
By Robert Knox
Globe Correspondent / November 23, 2008
In what may be a last attempt to stall the Lantana land swap in Randolph, opponents have placed the issue on Governor Deval Patrick’s campaign committee website and asked supporters to weigh in against it.
The request has generated a significant response on the website (http://www.devalpatrick.com/), which was created after Patrick’s election to encourage government involvement and provide a forum for public issues. Opponents of the deal hope their efforts will raise the land swap’s public profile of the issue and catch the governor’s attention, but administration officials have indicated that Patrick isn’t likely to intervene.
“It’s possibly the last step,” Judy Lehrer Jacobs, executive director of the Friends of the Blue Hills Reservation, said of her group’s efforts to block the land transfer. The only remaining regulatory obstacle standing in the way of the exchange appears to be the state’s demand for a new appraisal of the parkland’s value, she said.
The Lantana function hall won the Legislature’s approval six years ago for a land swap that would give the business 3.2 acres of the Blue Hills Reservation to build a parking lot in exchange for land of comparable value. The bill was sponsored by Randolph‘s legislative contingent and approved without a public hearing in a late-night session – an action widely criticized by the deal’s opponents.
Representatives of the Lantana, a family-owned business and a popular venue for weddings, proms, and other events, have said the function hall needs the parkland for a parking lot to protect customers who now have to cross Scanlon Street from an existing parking lot.
The deal has been opposed from the start by the Friends of the Blue Hills Reservation, a conservation group with about 1,000 members.
Opponents were heartened a year ago when the state Executive Office of Environmental and Energy Affairs demanded a full-scale report on the environmental impacts of the land transfer deal. But this past summer, Ian Bowles, state secretary of environmental affairs, accepted the main lines of Lantana’s draft environmental impact report, writing that it adequately and properly complies with the state’s environmental protection act.
He did, however, require Lantana to get a new appraisal of the Blue Hills land to make sure the exchanged properties were of equal value.
In the wake of that decision, the Friends of the Blue Hills took its campaign to devalpatrick.com, asking group members in an e-mail two weeks ago to visit the site’s “Stop the Lantana Land Swap” page “to let the governor know you do not want the Commonwealth to give away 3 acres of the Blue Hills Reservation to a private developer.”
In less than a week, the website received approximately 200 votes in favor of blocking the land swap, many with comments.
“Conservation land is finite,” one comment states (the website’s comments are signed only with initials and home town). “Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.”
Another opponent argues the land deal will send the “pernicious” message to young people that “we value private profit-making above the public good,” that conservation legacies of previous generations are taken lightly.

Getting the governor to respond to comments on the website may not be easy. Deval Patrick Committee spokesman Steve Crawford said the site provides a medium for discussing issues, not a way to appeal to the governor.
Its purpose is “to garner public attention by providing a public forum,” Crawford said. “And it’s succeeded in doing that.”

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