Cranberry Meadow Estates lots include piece of conservation easement

  • Cranberry Meadow Estates —COURTESY PHOTO

  • Cranberry Meadow Estates —COURTESY PHOTO

  • Cranberry Meadow Estates —COURTESY PHOTO

  • Twelve of the planned lots in Cranberry Meadow Estates include a portion of conservation land. —COURTESY PHOTO

  • Cranberry Meadow Estates —COURTESY PHOTO

  • Aerial view of Cranberry Meadow Pond —COURTESY PHOTO

  • Cranberry Meadow Pond —COURTESY PHOTO

  • Lot with a view —COURTESY PHOTO

  • One of the lots in Cranberry Meadow Estates. —COURTESY PHOTO

  • Inside view of a home on Carly Road. —COURTESY PHOTO

  • The completed home on Carly Road —COURTESY PHOTO

  • The completed home on Carly Road. —COURTESY PHOTO

  • Inside the home on Carly Road. —COURTESY PHOTO

  • A map of Cranberry Meadow Trail. —COURTESY PHOTO

  • A map of Cranberry Meadow Estates. COURTESY IMAGE—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/17/2022 10:25:50 AM

Walking along the Cranberry Meadow Pond Trail, a popular hiking path that starts in downtown Peterborough and connects all the way to the Raymond Trail that runs up Pack Monadnock, one may not realize a 64-lot development was once planned to be built on that very land.

However, the developer who owned the property ran into financial issues before he could start construction, and three conservation-minded investors jumped in, wanting to protect the natural area around the pond. They were able to purchase the land and made a plan. They knew some of the property would have to be developed, but they also knew the area was special for its wildness, so they created a compromise. 

“The most environmentally sensitive property [the area closest to the pond] became a conservation easement,” Brad Malt, one of the investors, explained. The land on higher ground and closer to the road would be divided into 13 lots with the potential to be developed.

Until 2020, the lots stood mostly undeveloped, but in the last few years, Paul LaRoche, a local design-builder, has bought a few lots and has started building homes for a development called Cranberry Meadow Estates.

Twelve of the lots include a buildable area and a portion of conserved land, meaning each homeowner is essentially buying a piece of the conservation easement.

Although they own the land, they cannot build on the conserved area and there are some restrictions in what they can do with it. For example, Cranberry Meadow Pond trail crosses many of these sections, so the conserved properties must remain accessible to the public. 

LaRoche is working closely with Ryan Owens, director of the Monadnock Conservancy. Malt and his two partners donated the conservation easement to the Monadnock Conservancy in 2007, and the conservancy is also responsible for maintaining Cranberry Meadow Pond Trail.

Owens explained that they hope to be a resource for and build relationships with the future homeowners.

“Prospective buyers know what they are getting into. Our hope and past experience is that buyers moving to the area want that anyway,” he said. 

With this project, LaRoche is hoping to help “reverse the stigma between builders and conservancies” that often exists.

“This is different,” he said.

Owens explained that one of the things that makes this project easier is that “it’s very clearly established where the boundary lines are.”

LaRoche has completed one home on Carly Road as a model house for the other lots. Unlike those lots, however, this one doesn’t include an attached conservation easement and is farther away from the conserved land. 

The other lots are 12 to 25 acres each, including their respective conservation easement portions. This enables them to qualify for current-use taxation. LaRoche is currently building on three pre-sold lots, two with views of Monadnock and the third facing Pack Monadnock, all with close access to hiking trails and open space.

LaRoche has spent a lot of time hiking the land himself and has become well-acquainted with the space and its wildlife. This has helped him feel connected to the areas he is building next to and he appreciates the beauty that, in Malt’s words, “would have been replaced by driveways, houses and people” if the original 64 lots had been constructed.

The homes are upscale, most of them over $1 million. 

“It’s a lot of fun for me to build these people’s dream homes,” said LaRoche.

With the recent fiber internet installation, the houses have the potential to be work-from-home locations, attracting the increased demand from out-of-state home buyers who have who have continued to work remotely and want to move out of urban areas to live closer to nature.  

Owens emphasized this is a “compromise that recognizes Peterborough will continue to develop and land should also be conserved. We can do both.”

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