Board of Selectmen Meeting of May 19, 2022

The Board of Selectmen held its second regular monthly May meeting on May 19, 2022 with all members present in person. The board approved the minutes from its May 5 regular meeting and approved two tax refunds as recommended by the tax collector. Both of these actions are routine matters for the board.

The board heard a presentation from Jean Stetz-Puchalski, chair of the Agricultural Commission, regarding the transfer of the farming lease for property on the grounds of the Samuel Staples Elementary School. For several years now, the town has partnered with local farmers and the school to farm property on the site and teach the schoolchildren about farming. The current lease runs until April 15, 2024. The present farmer-tenant is seeking board approval to assign the lease to Silverman’s Farm. The farming and educational program would be run by Jacob Conover, the manager of Silverman’s Farm, with assistance from his wife, Brittany, who runs the Shaggy Coos Farm, and is an agricultural scientist. The lease agreement authorizes an assignment or sublease with the consent of the town. The board unanimously approved the assignment.

The board heard a presentation from Dan and Gina Blaze, the tenants on the approximately ten acre remaining parcel of the town owned property located on South Park Avenue. They wanted to speak to the board about their concept for the use of this property now that the larger 18.7 acre parcel has been approved for sale to the Aspetuck Land Trust. The Blazes were the owners of the entire parcel for many years prior to the mid-2000’s sale to a developer and 2008 sale to the town. They have operated the New England Prayer Center on the site for many years. The gist of their proposal is for the town to sell them or the prayer center about five acres of the remaining property, including the main house, the rear barn and the cottage so they can continue to live on the site and operate the prayer center. The price, purchaser and other terms would need to be worked out. The acreage would not be subject to the proposed conservation easement. The board heard the proposal and asked questions about the plan but took no action at this time.

After reviewing an opinion of counsel and hearing a presentation from Andrew Kupinse, the board agreed to refer the petition for a conservation easement on the entire remaining acreage of the South Park Avenue property to a special town meeting to be held on May 31, 2022, at 7 p.m. at Samuel Staples Elementary School. Everyone agreed that the petition raises as many questions as it answers and many details need to be discussed and resolved before a final conservation easement in recordable document form is ready. Some of the questions and concerns involve whether a “permanent” easement can be created, whether the Blazes can remain on the site if there is a conservation easement, what the definition of passive recreation is, and can the easement encompass something less than the entire remainder of the site. For the moment, the town is constrained by the language in the citizens’ petition.

Several people offered public comment regarding the petition for a conservation easement on the remaining acreage on South Park Avenue including Jeff Becker, June Logie, Dana Benson, Anne Manusky, Grant Monsarrat, and Paula Barker. Grant Monserrat also wanted to confirm that tonight’s meeting is being recorded.

Selectman Lessler closed by commenting that he looks forward to seeing everyone at the Memorial Day parade. Selectman Sogofsky thanked Ed Nagy and his crew for installing the new nautical flag pole in front of town hall. First Selectman Bindelglass reminded everyone that there will be a public hearing on the town’s affordable housing plan on May 26 at 7 p.m. at Samuel Staples Elementary School. This will be the final public hearing on the state mandated plan which is due on June 1.

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