Designer seeks residents’ input on Canney Farm project

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DRACUT — Looking out upon the frozen landscape at Canney Farm on Lakeview Avenue, it may be hard to envision children playing baseball, frolicking on the tot lot, or adults enjoying the walking trails along the perimeter of the proposed park.

But as plans move forward, project organizers have scheduled a public information meeting for 7 p.m. on Jan. 5 at Harmony Hall. At that time, a representative of the park’s design consultant, Coler and Colantonio, will go over the scope of the project and answer questions from the public.

“We want feedback,” said Brian Bond, a member of an ad-hoc committee that has been overseeing the project. “We want to make sure that everyone is involved and everyone has their say.”

Plans call for a senior baseball diamond, a practice field for football, soccer and lacrosse, at least three basketball/tennis courts, a tot lot designed for children under 10, a concession stand, ample parking and walkways that will accommodate access to and around the elements of the park.

Original plans also called for lighting, but Bond said some town officials have been reluctant to include that feature.

“I don’t know if that’s entirely accurate,” said Selectman James O’Loughlin, a member of the ad-hoc committee. “At our last meeting, several people asked how much it would cost to install the lighting and maintain it. I didn’t get the sense that anyone was opposed to lights. I think they just wanted to know the specifics.”

Selectman John Zimini, also a member of the ad-hoc committee, said lighting has always been a crucial element of the project.

“It’s something we talked about from the very beginning,” Zimini said, adding that when Veterans Memorial Park was constructed on Broadway Road 10 years ago, lighting was not included. “I always thought that was a big mistake. The park is very popular, especially the walking paths. You need lights there.”

In June, Town Meeting approved spending $1.42 million for the 15-acre parcel and an adjoining parcel on which a house and barn now sit. The property is owned by developer and Lowell City Councilor Alan Kazanjian. The money will come from the Community Preservation Fund. Soil tests were performed and a small amount of contamination was discovered in an area near the barn.

Kazanjian has agreed to pay for the cleanup, which consists of about three truckloads of dirt, according to Zimini.

“It’s not a very big deal,” Zimini said. “It probably stems from old gasoline tanks that were once used on the farm.”

The project has met with several obstacles since its inception last year. Town Meeting initially approved spending $1.34 million for the property in November that year, with the intent of using the land for much-needed athletic fields.

Soon after that meeting, it was determined that the appraised value of the property was less than the town agreed to pay — a violation of the use of Community Preservation funds. Kazanjian then included the small parcel with the house and barn. The new figure now includes $1.02 million for the original 15 acres, $250,000 for an adjoining parcel containing the abandoned house and barn, $100,000 for design costs, $75,000 of which will be paid to the design firm, and $50,000 to bond the project.