Voters OK Money For Open Space
By DIANE STRUZZI
Courant Staff Writer
October 18 2006
SIMSBURY -- Voters Tuesday night overwhelmingly approved setting aside $1 million from town reserves to put toward the preservation of 427 acres at the Ethel Walker School.
More than 300 attended the meeting at Simsbury High School to hear town officials discuss the proposal to acquire the property from the school. Residents also voiced their opinions on buying the land, which is west of Bushy Hill Road.
Some opposed it, saying it would increase the tax burden. They asked town officials to do more research.
"How bucolic and pristine a town do we need?" asked Suzanne Bissonnette, who urged those at the meeting to vote no to the $1 million proposal.
Others supported the move, saying the preservation element was key to keeping Simsbury's appeal and necessary for future generations.
"I don't see anybody building more woods," said Dan Mudgett. "Like the Joni Mitchell song says, `You don't know what you got until it's gone.'"
The proposal was broken into two resolutions. The first calls for a $7 million appropriation - $5 million from bonds and $2 million from town reserves - to purchase about 336 acres. This will be on the ballot in a referendum Nov. 7. Simsbury has been awarded $462,000 in grants to offset the purchase price and has applied for about $450,000 in additional funding.
The second resolution, which was approved Tuesday in a resounding voice vote, called for the town to set aside $1 million from its reserves on the March 2007 closing date. The $1 million would serve as a deposit for the remaining property, give the town a conservation easement for the next five years and secure a $3.1 million purchase price.
In April 2012, the town would have three options: It could buy all of the property for $3.1 million; it could buy half the property for $2 million and receive an additional two years to purchase the rest of the land; or it could choose not to purchase the property and lose its $1 million deposit.
If the town decided to purchase the land, town officials would have to approve the balance at that time. If the town chose to take no action, the school could develop the property.
The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit conservation organization, is committed to raising about $2.75 million toward the overall purchase price.
Paul Henault, chairman of the finance board, said the cumulative annual tax increase to taxpayers would be about 1.39 percent. On a house assessed at $250,000, that would be about $87.50 per year.
Contact Diane Struzzi at email@example.com.
Copyright 2006, Hartford Courant