The remaining parcel of town-owned land on South Park Avenue will not become privately owned.
The Board of Selectmen on Thursday declined an offer by the New England Prayer Center to purchase 3.2 acres on South Park Avenue for $109.000. Gina and Daniel Blaze, the prayer center directors, have been leasing the property since 2008 to run their Christian retreat and learning center.
Had the Board of Selectmen agreed to the sale, the proposal would have gone to a town meeting. The town’s Land Use Ordinance states that town-owned properties valued at $200,000 or more require a town meeting for consideration.
“I can’t recommend that it go to a town meeting,” said Selectman Robert Lessler of the proposal, adding that the town could work out a lease with the couple for life use of the property.
In May, the Blaze’s attorney, J. Brian Fatse, wrote a letter to the selectmen with an offer to purchase 6.2 acres for $109,000. The appraised value of the acreage is $610,000, but the couple’s offer deducted money they’ve spent on structural repairs to the house, barn, and cottage on the property, the letter states.
The offer also deducted $162,000 the couple says they have overpaid in rent since 2014. Their $1,500 monthly lease expired in 2014. Since that time, the Blazes paid $3,000 a month as outlined in a new lease that was negotiated but never signed or recorded in Town Hall, according to their attorney.
Their offer later reduced the acreage to 3.2 acres for the same $109,000 price, subject to a survey.
“I don’t think it is in the town’s best interest to sell the property,” said Selectman Kristi Sogofsky. “Land is a limited resource, and we would be better served to maintain possession. I heard from many people in town, and they all opposed the sale as well.”
Neither Gina nor Daniel Blaze could be reached for comment.
“I don’t think a sale is in the town’s best interest,” said First Selectman David Bindelgass.
It’s not the first time the New England Prayer Center has attempted to purchase the property. In 2008, the town acquired the property for $6,150,000 to prevent the development of an affordable housing project on the site. At the same time, the town offered the New England Prayer Center a lease/purchase option for $300,000. The Prayer Center was unable to complete the purchase and the rights to the property went back to the town in 2014, according to information available on the town website.
Under then-First Selectman Adam Dunsby, the Board of Selectmen rejected five proposals for the property including one from Sacred Heart University to build athletic fields, tennis courts and a natatorium. First Selectman David Bindelglass would later form a South Park Advisory Committee (SPAC), which met several times and heard presentations from the Planning and Zoning Commission, the Agricultural Commission, the Conservation Commission, the Aspetuck Land Trust, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and Trout Unlimited, according to the town website.
Last year, Easton voters approved the sale of 18.6 acres in the lower portion of the property to the Aspetuck Land Trust for $470,000. Later, the voters approved a conservation restriction on the remaining 10 acres with a clause that allows the New England Prayer Center to use and occupy the property it leases from the town.