Every once in awhile a conversation comes to town board about the land owned by the village of Webster on DeWitt Road called the Village Well Fields. There are some who would like the town, or the County of Monroe, to take ownership of the property and maintain it as green space that can be used by residents and to keep it free from development.
The town board is always looking to take on green space if the price is right and it works with other 1,200 acres Webster has acquired since 1998. Many can remember when Whiting Road, Gosnell Big Field, and Gosnell Big Woods where the first pieces of land acquired by the town. All three pieces have turned out to be great walking and hiking trails thanks mostly to the Friends of the Trails after the donations and purchases by the town.
At this time there are good things and bad things to consider when looking at the Village Well Fields. First, the town does not own the land, the village does, and there is considerable amount of dollars that would be needed to be spent to cap the well fields. The village of Webster does not use the well fields any longer. I have heard that the price could be in the $550,000 to $700,000 range to cap the wells, and then you have to consider the removal asbestos in the buildings on the site as well. The town board does not think those expenses should fall back to town residents since the village ran the village water business for decades and should have budgeted for these expenses long ago or before they switched to Monroe County Water.
We also hear about residents not wanting this piece to become developed as it is the last piece of available land bordering Irondequoit Bay on the Webster side. The town of Webster already took steps years ago to prevent this piece from ever becoming developed.
In 2003, when I was a town board member and Cathie Thomas was supervisor, the town board passed an Open Space Overlay District on this piece of property. The intent in creating the Open Space Overlay District is to preserve and enhance the town of Webster’s open space and recreational areas by protecting these natural amenities and restricting development that does not respect these environmentally sensitive areas. The town of Webster recognizes the value and importance of the resources for the town residents, and therefore strictly limits the development of these areas.
No housing development can take place on this piece of land under this overlay district. There are only a few things that can be legally done here such as a public-owned park, natural wildlife areas, and open space areas. Outdoor recreational facilities such as hiking and bike trails, greens and commons, sitting areas and picnic areas are also permitted. However, since the well fields are currently owned by the village of Webster, you will need their permission to do these activities on their property.
Another point to consider is that there was a public meeting years ago, when Charlie Sexton was the commissioner of parks and recreation, regarding Monroe County giving the town of Webster some land next to the Village Well Fields for a park. Area residents came out in force against a park on that two lane DeWitt Road. Maybe feelings have changed over the years, but it would be something to discuss again with local residents in a public meeting before any other steps might be taken.
Since the town has taken this action back in 2003, the town board feels very confident that we have taken the necessary steps so that no development will happen in the near future, or until the village of Webster can figure out how to pay for the needed closures of the wells on the property.
As always, if you have any questions about your town government, please feel free to contact me during regular business hours at 585-872-7068; or email me anytime at supervisor@ci.webster.ny.us.