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January 06. 2013 10:41PM

Plaistow officials plan land swap to expand cemetery

PLAISTOW - Town officials are working out a land swap deal that would offer more space for the town cemetery and possibly allow for the future expansion of the public safety complex down the road.

Selectmen have negotiated an agreement with Alden Palmer in which he would give the town 3.5 acres of land behind the cemetery and adjacent to the safety complex in exchange for approximately 3.5 acres of town-owned land off Center Circle. There are no costs associated with the swap, Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald said.

The deal would ease concerns about the future of the cemetery, which Fitzgerald said has about 400 plots left to last another 15 years.

"We have been cognizant of just how limited the capacity of the existing cemetery is," he said.

The new land would provide more space for plots and another access point to the cemetery, Fitzgerald said.

"The primary driver here is the cemetery. There are a number of other municipal benefits that may come into play in the future," Fitzgerald said.

One of those municipal benefits may be the safety complex on Elm Street, which has housed police, fire and emergency management departments since 1985.

Space has become tighter as the police department staff has grown over the years, said Police Chief Stephen Savage, who has urged the town to explore options for the complex.

But while the land swap deal could benefit a safety complex expansion plan at some point in the future, Savage said, "I think the emphasis right now is on the cemetery and the value of acquiring the land for the cemetery."

Selectmen have also negotiated a right of first refusal on an additional 20 acres that could be developed in the future.

"I think it puts the town in a very strong position to be able to mitigate and affect the future use of that property. It's really a strategic piece of property," Fitzgerald said.

Selectmen will make the final decision on the land swap deal after two public hearings are held. They have not been scheduled. The proposal will also be reviewed by the planning board and conservation commission.

"We're going to take in a lot of information before we make these decisions," Fitzgerald said.

jschreiber@newstote.com

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