Proposed Conservation Easement on South Park Property Heads to Referendum  

A Special Town Meeting and a referendum will be held next month on a proposal to place a permanent conservation easement on the remaining approximately 10 acres of town-owned land on South Park Avenue.

The Special Town Meeting is scheduled for Dec. 5, and the town-wide referendum asking registered voters to approve or reject the proposed easement will be held Dec. 13.  

Preserve 06612, a group that wants to protect the land from development, secured more than 700 petition signatures in May to force town officials to convene a Special Town Meeting within 21 days per statutes to vote on the easement. A May 31 meeting was held, but town officials did not vote at the meeting because they felt its language was inadequate, unclear and left too many unanswered questions.

Since the May 31 meeting, the language of the easement has undergone several draft revisions and edits by the Board of Selectmen, the town attorney and representatives from the petitioners.  

Andrew Kupinse, an Easton property owner and son of former First Selectman William “Bill” Kupinse, said the final conservation easement document “came about through the hard work of many and its details were thoughtfully drafted.”

“I believe this is the right document to memorialize the action of the town back in May and I encourage its adoption,” he said.  “It  holds the line on preserving the entire property in its present state. It also ensures that the public will forever be able to access and enjoy the property as a town open space.  It further solidifies Easton’s leadership role in protecting green spaces in Fairfield county.”

A copy of the South Park Conservation Easement Proposal dated Sept. 19, 2022 can be accessed here .

The approximately 10 acres on the South Park Avenue property are part of a 29-acre town-owned parcel, 19 of which were sold to the Aspetuck Land Trust by a 1056 to 574 vote margin earlier this year. Those in favor of the easement feared the partial sale of the land to ALT would leave the 10 remaining acres vulnerable to development. The property is one of several identified in the town’s proposed affordable housing plan.

First Selectman David Bindelglass has said sending the easement to a town-wide referendum ensures the most democratic possible outcome. He has also suggested publicly that the petition to force the May 31 town meeting to get an easement approved was unnecessary because a recently approved town ordinance already stipulates that any town-owned land cannot be sold without a town-wide vote.  The town has spent $9,473.50 on crafting the easement document.

The agenda for the Special Town Meeting on Dec. 5 has not yet been finalized, but – in addition to the conservation easement – it will include changes to the town’s ethics ordinance, and fee schedule changes for Planning and Zoning and the Zoning Board of Appeals, said Selectman Robert Lessler.

 

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