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Over the Fence Post… August 13, 2014

 Thank you from the Cornells

Betsy and I wanted to express our deepest appreciation for all the support we have received following the fire at our house last week. It is very humbling to know that there are firefighters and other first responders who are willing to put their lives on the line to help people they don’t even know. The Stow Fire Department and all the other departments that responded to the fire battled the heat and humidity along with the stubborn fire in our house.

In addition to our gratitude at their professionalism in fighting the fire we were impressed at their courtesy and compassion; it was clear even in the midst of a very dangerous effort fighting the fire, they were aware that this was our home that was being destroyed and to act with the utmost respect. They went out of their way to retrieve the body of our cat and other critical items after the fire was under control.

We are also grateful for all our family, friends, and neighbors who stood by us as the fire was put out, and have continued to support us in so many ways. We cannot express how grateful we are to Jeff Smith and Warren Insurance, not only for years of making sure we had the right insurance, but for showing up at the house even before getting our call to guide us in the process of recovering.

Charlie and Betsy Cornell


Letter to Town of Stow regarding activities at Collings Foundation – Past, Present and Proposed

I suggest we all step back from the hairsplitting in discussions of the activities at the Collings Foundation and consider the big picture.

Is his current activity – regardless of what you call it or how you define it – appropriate in a Residential Zone?

According to Stow’s website, Stow is a community where over 92% of the homes are single family residences. The town “encourages residential growth that is protective of both the people who live here now and the people who will live here in the future.”

Mr. Collings property lies in a Residential Zone, located in one of the town’s most densely populated areas, accessed by one of the smallest private ways. Currently the Planning Board is considering a proposal to construct a 66,000 square foot structure on this property. “In order to grant site plan approval, {the Planning Board} shall find the proposed USE of the site consistent with the uses permitted in the district in which the site is located…”(9.3.12); that it “protects the abutting properties and ways, the neighborhood, community amenities and the Town against seriously detrimental or offensive uses on the site” (; and that it “will not derogate {devalue, diminish, reduce, lessen, depreciate} from the purpose of this Bylaw.” (

If you are in any doubt as to whether the current (let alone proposed) activities, by their very nature, “derogate” from the purpose of the Bylaw, consider what occurs at a re-enactment – 66-90 ton tanks maneuvering around, full blown explosions, low flying aircraft, to name a few. Then look at a satellite image of Mr.Collings’ location, surrounded by the many homes residents purchased, never questioning that such totally inappropriate and intrusive activities could occur in a Residential Zone.   People attending these events buy tickets and attend by choice; those of us who live here are not given such a choice, but rather have these battles imposed upon us, in our homes.

For far too long, we have seen our Zoning Bylaw disrespected and abused. The current extremely vocal and impassioned reaction by so many residents speaks to the pent up frustration we have all felt in the face of ever more outrageously inappropriate events at this premises. No matter how Mr. Collings tortures words (“private landing area”, “commercial”, “educational”, “museum”, “landscaping”, to cite a few), we ALL know what a Residential Zone is, and that no activity imaginable is less appropriate therein than Collings’ present and proposed use.

We are currently involved in a battle –not a sanitized, infomercial reenactment –but a very real battle for the value of our homes as places in which to dwell with the level of security which we as citizens—present and future–of the town of Stow have a right to expect in a Residential Zone. Collings’ activities, regardless of label, are prima facie inappropriate in a Residential Zone.

It is time for the town officials – elected and hired – to do their job and enforce the “purpose of {the} Bylaw”. (

 Barbara and Gregory Jones, Stow


Tanks Don’t Belong in Residential Area

As a newcomer to Stow, my perspective on the Collings Foundation debate is amazement that things have come this far. My first question is: If Stow’s zoning laws and zoning officials can’t stop tanks from coming in, what good are these laws? Tanks! These are not residential machines for even one day a year.

At last week’s hearing I was amazed to see what clearly seems an effort on the part of the Collings supporters to confound the issues of patriotism with their proposal. I am a patriot and yet I am unequivocally against further permitting for Collings in Stow: (why not Devens as a site, Mr. Collings)?

Patriotism, and Collings’ goals are two different issues. I think the Collings goals as stated at the August 6th hearing are admirable. But the issue seems clear to me: should they be allowed to expand their operation, whatever they may call it…educational, non-profit, in a residential neighborhood? They appear to have spent significant sums to prove they are eco-friendly, patriotic, but should they be allowed to expand their operation in a residential, quiet neighborhood?

What I see is that Collings’ record of applying for one use, then switching later on ( cattle farm becomes a vintage world war airplane runway), is a written record, and the Collings record of stating one “intent,” and switching to another, is incontrovertible.

For the town to partner with them, they ought to be reliable partners, whose actions match their stated intent. Unfortunately, this is clearly not the record since their intent has morphed from a “cattle farm” into a “museum” with live aircraft, and now, tanks! I wonder what it would take to cause people to speak up, if not to stop TANKS.

Finally, I suggest that the sound ordinance aspect of this ought to be addressed in scientific detail. If Collings can fire explosives, run noisy machines such as propellor aircraft, then why them and not the rest of us? Aren’t there already laws on the books regarding permissible sound pressure levels? Noise level is a measurable phenomenon. Have the police or anyone of our officials investigated to determine if they are already in violation of sound ordinance laws? I find the present noise of their “educational” events to be extremely inconsiderate (at a distance of more than half a mile!) If I made the noise they make I believe I would have been evicted by now! The sound of aircraft, never mind tanks, should NOT be allowed in a residential neighborhood.

People of Stow, all over Stow, please take a moment and let our planning board know that we will not permit our residential legacy to be run over by tanks. Collings needs to look to a non-residential site for his decidedly non-residential plans.

Mark Lanen, Stow