Town of Darien, Land Trust work together to secure open space
Updated 11:24 am, Wednesday, March 22, 2017
DARIEN — For the second time in 2017, the town has voted to acquire a parcel of open space.
However, unlike the first acquisition, a more than $5 million purchase of a 16-acre parcel formerly belonging to the Ox Ridge Hunt Club, the town’s contribution to the $275,000 purchase of a 1.2-acre parcel of land on Hecker Avenue is small.
Thanks to a donation from the Darien Land Trust and an open space grant awarded by the state, each worth $137,5000, respectively the town’s contribution will be limited to closing costs on the sale of the land and future maintenance. The property was formerly owned by the Spring Grove Cemetery Association.
“These ongoing costs relate to the removal of invasive plants and replanting at inception. And there is an option, not an obligation, for potential installation of a natural footpath down the road,” Mark Adiletto, chairman of the Public Works Subcommittee.
This is the second time the piece of land came before the RTM. According to Joanne Hennessy, vice chairman of the Rules Subcommittee, the parcel of land went before her subcommittee in 2013 and was rejected because at that time it would have been solely funded by the town. Also, because the parcel is mostly wetlands, there was little threat of a developer purchasing the plot and attempting to build on it.
“It’s mostly wetlands and we figured it would stay open space because nobody was going to build on it. Fast forward four years and it’s still open space,” Hennessy said.
This time around, the awarding of the state grant, though some questioned its wisdom given the state’s finances, made the purchase feasible, with the town’s contribution ranging between $2,500 and $3,000, according to Finance and Budget Subcommittee Chairman Jack Davis, which will come from the town’s Land Acquisition Fund, which currently has around $15,000.
Though the land is suboptimal for building and has a conservation easement placed on it, it could be the site of a walking path connecting Town Hall to Hecker Avenue, where the library and police department are located. Aside from the path and removal of invasive vegetation, the parcel will be kept mostly as is and will be managed by the Public Works town staff.
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson thanked Darien Land Trust President Flip Huffard and Executive Director Shirley Nichols noting the group had pledged to assist the town whenever it plans to build the walking path on the land.
“I want to thank the Land Trust for not only their patience but their incredible generosity in sharing the cost of this property acquisition and seeing the future potential opportunity for the town,” Stevenson said.
According to Nichols, the partnership between the Land Trust and the town was one of the first of its kind, and was cr ucially important in securing state funding.
“The reason that the town probably received the open space grant from the state was the fact that we were working together and had already pledged our part of the agreement,” Nichols explained.
Nichols added that the construction of one home had been approved on the site, but two conservations placed on the parcel — one from the state and one from the Land Trust — will prohibit any building. Because the parcel sits in a flood zone, Nichols said the absence of a house is better in terms of flood mitigation.
“We were very happy to help do our part toward the acquisition,” Nichols said.