Op-Ed: Aspetuck Land Trust Clarifies South Park Property Acquisition

Last week you may have received a pamphlet from Citizens for Responsible Government (CRG) about Aspetuck Land Trust’s (ALT) proposed purchase of 18.6 acres of the 29.5- acre South Park property owned by the Town of Easton. We’d like to offer a few clarifications. 

ALT’s mission is the preservation and conservation of open space for the benefit and education of the public and future generations. Founded in 1966 as a nonprofit member-supported organization, we have already conserved 1,450 acres in Easton. ALT’s interest is solely in saving the land, not in local politics. 

South Park Proposed Purchase – ALT would be delighted to buy the entire property from Easton. But together we settled on the most environmentally sensitive 18.6 acres, basically the shoreline of the Mill River.  

Fly fishing is popular in the pristine Mill River. — Nancy Moon Photo

Here are the Facts — The land is currently not protected in perpetuity by deed. Conveyed to ALT, it will be deed restricted for preservation and conservation. The $470,000 purchase price is exactly what an independent appraiser set. The State of Connecticut agreed the price is fair and awarded ALT a $188,000 grant to help purchase the property based on it. ALT will pay the balance. The state’s grant award remains in full force and effect.  

Understanding Land Prices — A developer already owned the property in 2008 when, to prevent a dense 72-unit residential development with an affordable component, Easton was forced to pay a very high price for it. With that threat gone and as currently zoned, the market value has dropped sharply. The town could recoup their original investment if it changed zoning to permit high density multi-family development. This seems improbable. ALT is not taking advantage of Easton, and Easton is not taking advantage of you.  

South Park Condition — After 13 years, the property is currently heavily littered and has the decaying remnants of several old commercial buildings. After you vote to approve the purchase, ALT will clean up the property, maintain it and provide safe public access. A direct financial benefit to you — all those future costs will forever be shifted from the town to us. Weston voters just approved a similar 85-acre sale to ALT. If you want to be reminded why this land is so important to preserve, please view our short video here

We applaud Easton’s leadership and look forward to protecting and preserving the property for you and generations not yet born. That’s what we do.

Bill Kraekel, president of the Aspetuck Land Trust, is an Easton resident.