Monday, July 27, 2009

Democrats On P&Z Question Richetelli Land Deal

The Planning and Zoning Board has given its OK to the city’s acquisition of 7.6 acres for open space on Burnt Plains Road, which Mayor James L. Richetelli Jr. said will link several tracts. Purchase of the $600,000 tract still requires action by the Board of Aldermen.

Among PZB members present for the vote, Cathy Paterson, D-1, was the lone dissenter. However, PZB Vice Chairwoman Kim Rose, D-3, said several members did have questions about the purchase, especially since it would deplete the city’s open space account.

But Richetelli defended the purchase, saying he worked out a “very favorable” financial arrangement with the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority.

According to the financial terms of the deal, the city would pay $300,000 to the water authority at closing, and the second $300,000 would be paid over a 10-year period, at $30,000 a year. There would be no interest for the first five years and then 5 percent interest the last five years, the mayor said.

Richetelli said he hopes the city can apply for state grants totaling $300,000 for the open space acquisition, so the total cost to the city for the land would be $300,000. Richetelli also stressed that the initial $300,000 would come from open space and various reserve accounts so there would be no bonding for the land.

The water authority performed two appraisals on the land; one came in at $800,000, the other at $600,000. The authority’s board decided to sell the land for the lowest appraisal, and offered it first to the city.

If the city passes, then the land will be offered next to the state Department of Environmental Protection. If the DEP also declines purchasing it, the land would then be sold on the open market where a developer would end up with it, the mayor said.

“It’s a very valuable piece of property,” Richetelli said. “It links up with other considerable city owned pieces of open space. It will prevent development in the middle of some really beautiful open space.”

The property is adjacent to the former YMCA property on Orange Avenue the city purchased last year. The land also is close to fields on Red Bush Lane. A private development there could lead to the construction of at least six or more single-family homes, the mayor said. Richetelli said the city’s plan for the land is that it remain open space forever.

Rose said she didn’t vote on Richetelli’s request because she was serving as acting chairman during the vote. But she said, like Patterson, she had several concerns about the land acquisition. One is about depleting the city’s open space account, because other, more valuable properties may become available, and the city would have no money, Rose said.

She said PZB members voted to approve the acquisition because “it absolutely made sense to own it” and because it will link other parcels, but it puts “the onus of $300,000 on the taxpayers.”

Aldermen are expected to vote at the board’s August meeting.


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