Let's Not Miss Open Space Opportunity

Letter: Let’s not miss open space opportunity


Editor, Advertiser:

In an article about the potential development of 18 acres off of Indian Waters Drive in last week’s Advertiser (“18 acres for sale raises concerns about development”, Feb. 18, page 2), I was pleased to see Town Tax Assessor Sebastian Caldarella point out that the low assessment that the Aquarion Water Company received as an exemption from the State of Connecticut is because the parcel is forested and vacant, and the state encourages the preservation of open space with this exemption.

Mr. Caldarella is correct. The statute under which Aquarion qualified for the exemption is State of Connecticut Public Act 490. It acts to “preserve agriculture land, forest land and open space land by assessing these lands at their use value, not its market value.”

Who is the Act really intended for? Dairy farmers with their hundred acres, who can hardly pay market rate taxes on all that land and keep farming. Owners of forest who may use their acreage to tap trees to make maple syrup, etc. But with Aquarion’s announced plan to subdivide their 18-acre parcel into lots for developers, “preserving agriculture land, forest land and open space land” is clearly not their intention.

That parcel is going from its annual tax bill of — get this — about $149 an acre, to an asking price of probably well over a million bucks for each building lot. Pretty good appreciation. Is that being earned by a land speculator, taking his risks in the open market? No, that’s a water utility making that killing.

You shouldn’t be able to reap the tax benefits of claiming that land is worth next to nothing, and then work the system to sell it off for a fortune.

Of course, Aquarion was only acting within its legal rights, using the system to its advantage. Ok. Let’s act within our own rights, use the system to New Canaan’s advantage, to make some mutual arrangement between Aquarion, Planning and Zoning, the New Canaan Land Trust, the Conservation Commission, and other interested and knowledgeable parties, to convey this forested, wildlife-rich acreage over to the town for open space — in perpetuity, and for the enjoyment of all.

Because one thing I know about open-space acreage: They ain’t makin’ any more.

 Jon Stone

Indian Waters Drive and some of the Aquarion land that is open space to the right. — Greg Reilly photo

Indian Waters Drive and some of the Aquarion land that is open space to the right. — Greg Reilly photo