JWG (jwg) wrote,

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View North to Ipswich Bay from Sunset Hill


Sunset Hill is about 1/2 mile from our house. It is a several hundred acre hill covered with grasses, blueberries, cat briar, and other such species and lots of granite ledge. This is the view north. In a few more years, the bay will disappear since the mostly Oak trees below are getting taller.

The whole place almost disappeared a few years ago when a developer planned on building ~200 houses on it. A subdivision had been approved about 20 yeasr before by the Planning board for which the detailed records were lost and couldn't actually be approved under current zoning laws. Some interested residents got involved in trying to stop it. The Mayor got invoked and got help from a mediator suppplied by the state. At first, the developer agreed to keep the central place open space but as time went on with some threatened law suits he offered to sell the land to the city for a moderate profit - total price about 2.5 million which was a pretty good bargain; he did get to retain about 5 houses worth of land on the edges.
I got involved at about this point and started going to the organizers' meetings. For the city to buy the property a Proposition 2 1/2 override (a vote to levy extra taxes) was going to be needed. So we started a new publicity campaign, raised some money and among other things planned a mailing to registered voters. I got the voter registration files and the who-voted-last-election file, and constructed a data base so as to be able to select a subset of voters and combine multiple voters at the same address- we couldn't afford to mail to 20,000 voters. I designed a postcard, got it printed (a local printer gave us a good price), printed the labels on my trusty Apple laserwriter (which was a bit ornery a few minutes ago but I won!), and organized the stamping and label project.

We were succesful on election day. It passed with about 65% yesses and the land is now an undeveloped city park. Even though the maps all call it Sunset Hill, the natives call it Poles Hill and that is what the sign says. Every time I go there I enjoy it even more because I was part of the effort to save it from development. And what is so rare in such civic things, everyone (even the developer) was happy with the result.

Medium sized mailings for organizations is one of my specialties - I do it for the Cambridge Civic Association, the Cambridge Lavender Alliance, Lavender Country and Folk Dancers, Western Mass Gender Free Contradancers, and Boston Gay and Lesbian Contradancers. These days it is much easier since the US Post Office has an online mailing system that allows uploading a mailing list and a document and then they do all the work at a good price including discounted postage.

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