More than 1,000 people have signed a petition opposing UNH’s master plan that would potentially develop university-owned agricultural lands. If you missed last week’s forums, an additional open forum is scheduled for Tuesday, April 24, in the Strafford Room of the Memorial Union Building from 12:40 p.m. to 2 p.m., and an evening forum specifically for town residents at 7 p.m. in the Huddleston Hall ballroom to present revisions, as well as other elements of the entire plan. From Fosters:
More than 1,000 sign petition against UNH master plan ideas
More than 1,000 signatures have been collected as an online petition brings attention to opposition from students, faculty, staff and the community toward proposed ideas of the updated University of New Hampshire Campus Master Plan.
Of most concern are expansive retail opportunities being considered for the west edge of campus that would impact not only the direct land that could be used, but the surrounding lands as well. An image of Cabela’s, an outdoor recreation retail store, is shown in slides of the plan to illustrate what type of buildings and designs might best fit along the edge of campus.
The online petition, which had 1,025 signatures by Wednesday afternoon, had signers sharing concerns that were brought up during Tuesday’s forum, though not thoroughly answered.
Self-described local farmer and local food advocate and former UNH staff member Kate Donald included with her signature on April 17: “I believe the farm land in question should be preserved for agriculture research and education. If this farm land is developed it will negatively impact the future of COLSA and the community as a whole. Prioritizing the preservation of farm land in our communities is critically important. UNH should lead the way and be a good example.”
Georgene Nunn wrote on the same day: “This area deserves all the agricultural education opportunities it can get. Not another strip mall, Walmart, or whatever else it may be as implied by the phrase “private retail.” Please work with the community to find a better way to handle this.”
Others echoed the same sentiments saying using the land for retail goes against not only sustainability, but what the school itself, built on agriculture, stands for.
While developers may believe large retailers are the answer to revenue generation as the school deals with significant budget cuts from the state this year, others feel that changing the landscape of campus and utilizing the land in such ways would deteriorate the quality — even the existence — of the agriculture programs currently offered at the school and which were the very programs from which UNH has grown since being incorporated in 1866 as the New Hampshire College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts.
A history of the school provided on its website explains it had been one of the early land-grant institutions established “to serve the sons and daughters of farming and laboring families.”
It goes on to tell about the land given to UNH in its early days as a university, saying New Hampshire College, initially situated in Hanover, moved to its Durham campus in 1893 “after Benjamin Thompson, a prosperous farmer, bequeathed land and money to further the development of the college.”
On Tuesday, more than 200 people showed up to hear representatives from UNH Campus Planning, Architerra Inc., and JBA, 1ncorporated share proposals on plans for a new Center for the Arts, graduate student housing, and a research par and commercial and retail development projects.
Those ideas about public-private ventures and what role they would have on campus drew the most opposition. Potential utilization of roughly 35 acres of land near the dairy farms and what impact that development would ultimately have on programs offered through the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture garnered the most talk.
Naming recent budget cuts as a reason behind the new ideas and the pressure on tuition at the school, Paul Chamberlain, vice president for campus development and energy resources, said that land, currently used for a silo and haymaking to support the equine, dairy and agriculture courses, had the potential for other purposes.
Another open forum is scheduled for Tuesday, April 24, in the Strafford Room of the Memorial Union Building from 12:40 p.m. to 2 p.m.
To view the petition, visit http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/supportunhagriculture/signatures.