Our town will soon face an $883,000 question: Do we change zoning to permit a dense residential development? Our First Selectman is right to press the need to pay down debt and reduce property taxes. But the current proposal will not do it. And the $883,000 question is part of the reason why.
How many of us knew when the CCW was originally purchased that nearly $1 Million was added to the cost to pay off the country club’s unsecured debtors? We overwhelmingly approved buying the real estate, but who knew an $883,000 check was cut to the seller’s attorney, with no records to document how the money was distributed? That’s our tax money, and that’s crazy! So crazy that we should all be suspicious of the current deal, given that the same folks involved with the $883,000 question are behind this package. We have to wonder, what Trojan Horse lies within?
It’s common knowledge that a right granted to one landowner is precedent for another. Good lawyers know how to wrangle an approval, and we have many large town parcels that would qualify for dense development. That’s the slippery slope that’s befallen many of our neighboring towns whose New England character has been obliterated by suburban sprawl.
Beth Heller should be commended for pressing a resolution to the CCW financial fiasco. But we need to balance the financial fix with quality of life protections. Protecting the open space without addressing debt and tax issues is as wrong as allowing the zoning change. But we can have a win-win. The 10-12 acres that include the clubhouse are already developed. That piece has real commercial value as a banquet, conference, recreational and restaurant facility—all uses consistent with the former country club use. Sell it as we do in the private sector. Hire a commercial realtor, or let the Economic Development Commission craft a Request for Proposals, in a transparent process. Seek the best deal. The remaining 140 acres should be protected for perpetuity, for trails, recreation, open space and agriculture.
Beth, give us a win-win: pay down debt, add to the grand list, reduce taxes, and protect what should be another jewel in the town’s crown of open space.