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Land Trust Raises Funds to Preserve Farm Land

Land Trust Raises Funds to Preserve Farm Land

The Woodbridge Land Trust is partnering with the Connecticut Farmland Trust and the Department of Agriculture to preserve farming and prevent large-scale development at the Baldwin Farm.

The Woodbridge Land Trust has embarked on a renewed effort to preserve one of the town’s most scenic vistas from potential development.  Straddling the Woodbridge, Derby and Orange town lines, with gentle rolling hills, the property at 902 Baldwin Road, known as Baldwin Farm, is a bucolic portal to Woodbridge when approaching from Route 34 and the Merritt Parkway.

Partnering with the Connecticut Farmland Trust and the Department of Agriculture, the local Land Trust and the state would purchase the property and place a conservation easement in perpetuity on it.  The local Land Trust would contribute $200,000 in exchange for a trail easement around the perimeter and co-ownership of the development rights.

The Woodbridge Land Trust is looking for donations from the public throughout the month of May to come up with the necessary funds for this partnership.  Contributions can be mailed to the Woodbridge Land Trust, P.O. Box 3699, Woodbridge, CT 06525, or by contacting a board member.  A donation form is available on the Land Trust website.

Only 11 of the 86+ acre property are located in Woodbridge, and zoned residential.  The rest of the property is located in Derby and zoned for an industrial park.  Indeed, a 2004 proposal laid out an industrial park in Derby and four years later, another proposal was for an assisted living complex.  Neither one of these proposals came to fruition, but pressure from developers is growing, said Land Trust President Bryan Pines when he addressed the Board of Selectmen at its April meeting.

“The Trust now has the opportunity to purchase the property’s development rights to ensure that the property remains in agricultural use in perpetuity,” Pines said.  In the meantime, the Hine family, who own Field View Farm along Route 34, has been haying the meadow.

The plan is for the Connecticut Farmland Trust to purchase the whole parcel from the descendants of the Hitchcock Family at an undisclosed price.  The financing would come from the state Department of Agriculture, said Elizabeth Moore of the Connecticut Farmland Trust.  She said the conservation easements would be part of the purchase agreement.  The closing may be as soon as in July.

One easement would be for agricultural use, the other for walking trails.  They would prohibit any industrial or residential use of the land, with the exception of one house for a future farmer and some barns.  The plan is to then resell the property at a reduced price to a person willing to farm at that location.

The Connecticut Farmland Trust (CFT) was founded in 2002 with the mission to protect as much of Connecticut’s vanishing farmland as possible.  According to its website it has helped preserve 45 family farms throughout the state and over 3,000 acres of farmland, including two farms in Bethany.

“When CFT protects a farm, that land becomes a ‘forever farm,’ the Farmland Trust says on its website.  “We don’t dictate how a farmer can farm, nor whether they can sell the land, or who to.  What we promise, however, is that those important soils — that land — will always be available for growing food.”  About half of the Baldwin Road property has prime farmland soil, according to the local Land Trust.  For the past 30 years or so, it has been used for haying, which would make farming a continuing use under zoning laws.

In addition to the selectmen’s endorsement, the Woodbridge Land Trust also has obtained endorsements from the Woodbridge Park Association, the Woodbridge Garden Club and Amity & Woodbridge Historical Society, as well as Massaro Farm.

“We believe this is a very important preservation effort for the town of Woodbridge and we look forward to your successful acquisition of the conservation easement,” wrote Alexia Belperron, Historical Society president, in her endorsement letter.

Contributions can be mailed to the Woodbridge Land Trust, P.O. Box 3699, Woodbridge, CT 06525, or by contacting a board member.

By Bettina Thiel – Woodbridge Town News Correspondent

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