This week you should be receiving the new Easton Directory prepared and distributed by the Easton Senior Center. It is an extremely valuable resource and is distributed free of charge. I want to thank all who contributed by advertising in the book and to the Senior Center staff who assembled it, led by Val Buckley. We will make an on-line version available shortly.
This week you will begin to see the Easton EMS annual donation letter in your mailbox. We have made it a little easier for you to give this year. You can either scan the QR code or go directly to https://eastonems.com/about-us/donate/ These donations not only go towards our ultimate goal of a new building, but they help us answer hundreds of emergency calls a year. Thank you in advance for whatever you can give.
On Saturday, Dec. 3rd from 8:00 a.m.-12:00.p.m., please join the Easton Police Department stuff-a-cruiser to benefit Toys for Tots at the Easton Library parking lot, 691 Morehouse Road.
On Sunday, Dec. 4th the Easton Public Library is sponsoring their annual craft fair and tree lighting ceremony from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. There will be kids’ activities, a holiday sing-along, cookies and hot chocolate and much more. It is a great beginning to the holiday season. Please come stop by. Also, volunteers are needed during the afternoon, please call the library at 203-261-0134 if you can help.
A reminder that the hazardous waste collection day is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 3rd, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at 307 Indian Ledge Park Drive next to BMX facility. Easton residents may participate and will be required to show their CT Driver’s License.
A big thank you to Terry Calgreen for his help during the power outage Wednesday night and early Thursday morning to ensure the Police Department remained up and running for the safety of our residents.
We have a special town meeting on Monday Dec. 5th, at Samuel Staples Elementary School at 7:00 p.m. You should have all received a postcard with the questions that are up for discussion. If you go to the town website eastonct.gov you can click on “Government”, then “Town Meeting” and then the date on the upper left-hand side under News & Announcements where you will find a wealth of information. I have also added an explanation of how town meetings work for those who are new to or learning about the process. Specifically, we are discussing a change in fees collected for various functions by the Planning and Zoning Commission, some language changes to the Ethics Ordinance, and to appropriate an expenditure of $244,000 to repair the tennis courts at Helen Keller, and line them for pickleball as well. This is actually a set aside which the town needs even though the money is actually a grant from the state, but because the grant comes as reimbursement after the expenditures we must set aside the money up front. In effect the proposed expenditure is only for accounting purposes as the funds will not actually be spent.
The final question is placing a conservation restriction on the town owned property at 18-22 South Park Ave. This will be adjourned to a referendum on Dec. 13th. This property has a very long history. According to Citizens for Easton, there have been attempts to preserve this land for fifty years.
The land was privately owned until 2008 when the town bought it for $6.15 million. The 2008 referendum question can be viewed on the town website at https://www.eastonct.gov/town-meeting/pages/south-park along with the press release by First Selectman Tom Herrmann detailing the possible ways the town could recoup its money. It is generally accepted that the town purchased the land to prevent the development of the property for affordable housing, as detailed in the First Selectman’s press release.
Over the years the Board of Selectmen have entertained multiple options for the land. Several years ago, they approved selling the land to Sacred Heart University to build a swimming facility. At the last minute the University backed out.
Recognizing the importance of preserving the land in 2020, the town negotiated the sale of 19 of the 30 acres to the Aspetuck Land Trust while helping them to secure a grant from the state. That purchase was approved by the town this year, over the strong objection of some and is almost complete.
As that deal was moving forward the land trust was procuring an appraisal of the remaining land for the purpose of buying the remainder of the land from the town. That appraisal can also be viewed under “Town Meeting” on the website. The town had hoped to work with the Land Trust to preserve the remaining land, explaining why they were intent on getting the land appraised.
If you recall at the vote to approve the sale of the first 19 acres, you were approached at the exit from the poles to sign a petition to save the remaining South Park land. You were told the property would get developed if you didn’t sign the petition to mandate a town meeting to approve a conservation restriction on the remaining land. Approximately 700 of the 1600 who voted that day signed.
If this sounds confusing, it is. Almost every proposed town action originates with the Board of Selectmen so it is carefully proposed and vetted before being brought to the town for consideration. When a question is brought to the town by a legal petition that process is short circuited. I have previously explained the problems with the proposal as written, (see post from May 17th). The inadequacy of the proposal led to a highly unusual resolution of the May 31st Town Meeting to have the Selectmen construct a proper legal document and return it to a subsequent Town Meeting, hence Dec. 5th (see May 31st Town Meeting resolution on line). Following the Town Meeting there will be a referendum on Dec. 13th, on the following question: “Shall the Town of Easton restrict the use of a town-owned, 10.9-acre parcel of property located at 18-22 South Park Ave., as set forth in the proposed “Conservation Restriction” on file in the Town Clerk’s office and published on the town website?”
Previously, I explained the relationship between town meetings and referenda. Being that the fate of the South Park property is probably the single most controversial topic in Easton in decades, the final settlement of its disposition should be made by all of us and we will vote on Dec. 13th.
Regrettably there is some controversy regarding what our vote means. There is no disagreement that a positive vote means that the restriction will be placed on the land and the land will be preserved, with the conditions set forth in the document. Given the wording of the question on the ballot this is crystal clear. What if the restriction is voted down? There is an ongoing argument over whether the vote is simply to approve the language of the restriction which has already been approved. To that end I can reiterate as I have in the past, that if the vote is negative I will go back and rewrite the restriction and we can try again. That of course gets complicated, because if the vote is no we will have to decide what in the restriction people did not like and try to rewrite it accordingly.
Hope to see you on Monday.
Have a great weekend.