An exceeder of expectations

Let’s just say that a decision made by the town’s Select Board a little more than three years ago has exceeded all expectations.

When town Conservation Administrator Betty Adelson retired in 2018, the priority for her successor fell on finding someone who could help ensure that some of Lynnfield’s most precious assets — open land and trees — would be preserved in perpetuity.

Enter Emilie Cademartori.

It didn’t take long after her February 2019 hiring for town officials to realize that Cademartori’s experience in both planning (she spent nine years as Wenham’s town planner) and conservation presented a unique opportunity to merge the planning and conservation departments.

Eight months later, Cademartori became the town’s first director of planning and conservation.

“All of my education was in environmental science so consolidating both departments made sense in that I can apply my science background into the planning process, kind of a blend of two skills,” said Cademartori. “It only made sense. The beauty is that compared to two departments, when we were in individual silos, now there is better communication. Information is centralized, which allows us to give complete answers when residents call the Select Board. Before, we just didn’t have full knowledge of each side of the puzzle.”

Town Administrator Rob Dolan, who proposed the merger, said it was clear from the get-go that Cademartori was perfect for the job.

“It was obvious immediately that she was capable of combining the departments under one administrator. We asked her to develop a plan within both departments’ budgets,” Dolan said. “She had the skill sets which allowed for centralization under one roof, so to speak. The conservation and planning chairs were willing to try it and it has worked incredibly well. Attorneys, citizens and developers appreciate her expertise and her clear straightforward expectations and process.”

That’s putting it mildly.

Under Cademartori’s guidance the town set the stage for three major initiatives guaranteed to improve the quality of life of Lynnfielders for years to come.

In October 2021, Town Meeting voters adopted the Lynnfield Tree Preservation Bylaw, which aims to protect trees within designated setbacks on residential and commercial properties and within proposed new subdivisions. The landslide vote was the culmination of years of language tweaking addressing residents’ reservations on the scope and nature of the bylaw.

In late November, the Select Board voted unanimously to assign its right to purchase the 20-acre Richardson Green property on upper Main Street to the Essex County Greenbelt Association for $2.7 million. The Select Board also approved a conservation restriction, thereby ensuring the land will be protected from development in perpetuity.

“Clearly, managing the complicated process of purchasing Richardson Woods as a way to preserve open space, promote responsible development, and to protect our water supply was a key achievement this year,” said Dolan.

Cademartori said that a perfect storm of fortunate events combined to turn a citizens group push to protect the land from a residential development into a reality, once thought impossible.

“Nobody really thought the land could be saved and the developer was so sure the town had no interest in acquiring the land,” she said. “I told him ‘you never know’ and we ended up getting incredibly lucky. COVID gave the town more time than it normally would have had to work through the Chapter 61 process, which is complicated. It also gave us time to find the funding; otherwise we would have had to ask Town Meeting to fund the whole thing, but it never came down to that.”

Cademartori said state Rep. Bradley Jones was a key player in acquiring the final piece of funding in September 2021 — a $1.6-million-plus Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness grant (MVP) from the Baker-Polito administration combined with $200,000 from the Conservation Commission; $300,000 from Greenbelt and $571,000 from the town’s American Rescue Plan Act to fund 100 percent of the cost of the project.

The parcel is a key element of the Vision for Willis Woods project, a collaborative effort to plan and protect approximately 600-700 acres of undeveloped land along the Ipswich River at the intersection of Lynnfield, Middleton, North Reading, and Peabody.

“It’s a key piece because it will provide good access to the Willis Woods property,” Cademartori said. “Willis Woods is bound by private properties and the river and there is no parking. The Richardson Green parcel will allow us to start with a small parking area, which we never had.”

A Beverly native, Cademartori earned a bachelor of science degree from the University of Vermont’s (UVM) School of Natural Resources and a master’s in marine-environment science from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Cademartori and her husband, Greg, who is the City of Gloucester’s director of planning, attended graduate school together and originally thought their mission in life was to “save the world.”

“We were ocean people and we thought our focus would be on saving water resources so we thought we would move to Maine, doing the right thing for the planet, but we realized that the jobs in environmental science were all in regulatory roles, not things like coastal-water planning,” Cademartori said. “So we decided to move back to the North Shore thinking we would probably end up working at a regulatory agency in Boston.”

As far as the whirlwind events of the past year are concerned, Cademartori said it’s all in a day’s work.

“We were lucky in that our regulatory work was down at the time, so we just slugged away at the permits and the drudgery that is paperwork,” she said. “It was amazing that all of these things were teeing up at the same time. It was pretty crazy and a little nutty at times in the office, but in the end, it was fun and extremely rewarding.”

Dolan said the timing of Cademartori’s arrival in Lynnfield couldn’t have been better.

“Lynnfield has had many citizens and dedicated staff working on important conservation and planning issues. but Emilie’s professional guidance to our excellent Planning Board and Select Board is invaluable in a time when development is so aggressively pursued and the enforcement of environmental and zoning bylaws are so key in preserving the quality of life in Lynnfield,” he said.

The Cademartoris live in Beverly with their son Connor, a senior at Boston College, and daughter, Corinna, a sophomore at the University of Vermont.