Budgets and Demolition Delay Ordinance Also Approved

Easton voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved selling a portion of town-owned land on South Park Avenue to the Aspetuck Land Trust.

According to unofficial results from the Easton Town Clerk, voters approved the referendum question by 482 votes with 1056 (or 65%) voting “yes” and 574 (or 35%) voting “no.” The town budget, Region 9 school budget, and Demolition Delay Ordinance also passed by wide margins.

This town’s proposal to sell roughly 18.7 acres of the 29-acred plot to the land trust has for weeks been the source of campaigns both for and against the land sale. Those in favor of the sale saw it as the best scenario for preserving the land and protecting the Mill River on the property, a Class 1 Wild Trout Management Area recognized by state environmental officials. Those opposed to the sale argued splitting the land would leave the roughly 10 remaining acres on the parcel vulnerable to development.

Residents had a chance to voice their support and concerns over the sale at an April 18 public hearing and at the annual town meeting on April 25. Some spoke in favor of the sale, others called for deed restricting the remaining acres to safeguard it from development before Tuesday’s vote, or to delay a vote.

Tuesday’s referendum gave voters the final say on the sale.

The land trust will buy the parcel for $470,000. Under a state grant agreement worked out with the town, the land trust will receive from $188,000 toward the purchase price. The grant mandates the purchase be completed by this year.

The town purchased the entire parcel for $6.15 million dollars in 2008 to keep it from being developed. A state mandate requires all towns to have an affordable housing plan in place, and the remaining 10-acre parcel has been identified as a possible site in the town’s latest draft affordable housing plan. It is one of several possible strategies outlined in the plan that includes repurposing a portion of the old Samuel Staples Elementary School for housing, modifying zoning regulations to allow smaller lots for affordable units, and offering CHFA mortgages to buyers.

Under a new land ordinance, the 10 acres and any town-owned or leased property must be approved by voters through a town-wide referendum vote.

Residents also approved during Tuesday’s referendum the town’s annual budget of $46,721,617 for fiscal year 2022-2023 (1250 to 356), the Region 9 school budget (1233 to 370), and a Demolition Delay Ordinance that would help preserve Easton’s historic structures (1161 votes to 345). Redding also approved the Region 9 budget by a vote of 589 to 160.

The unofficial results with ballot questions are also available on the Town of Easton website at https://www.eastonct.gov/home/news/unofficial-results-town-of-easton-and-regional-school-district-no-9-referendum-05-03-2022.

Photo at top by Sophie Camizzi

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