Category Archives: Preserving Easton

Protect watershed lands from high density development!

Potential dangers of the Saddle Ridge development include contamination of the Aspetuck and Easton Lake Reservoirs and pollution of underground aquifers. Click here for more information. Your support is urgently needed to protect the watershed.

More signs of spring in Easton… Call for photos!

– Photo courtesy of Katie Henry

Please send any photos that celebrate Easton’s scenic, rural agrarian and small town characteristics to cfe@citizensforeaston.org with a note in the subject line: “Photo Submission.” Periodically, we hope to randomly select images to post on our website. If you’d like your name to be credited, kindly note that also. Thank you in advance!

Easton P&Z approves high density affordable housing development on sensitive watershed property draining into two major reservoirs

Our zoning commission has approved the application for an intensive affordable housing development proposed by Saddle Ridge, “with multiple conditions.” No matter the conditions, the intensive development of this property in the watershed between two reservoirs which service over 400,000 residents in Fairfield County should not have been approved. Aquarian Water Company opposed the application, as well as various town officials and governmental entities. In a prior application by Saddle Ridge our courts previously recognized that the need to protect the watershed outweighed the need for an intensive affordable housing development by Saddle Ridge. Continue reading

NEXT (AND MAYBE LAST) SADDLE RIDGE PUBLIC HEARING

Adequate water supplies of high quality are
necessary both for community use and local
ecosystems . . .

Citizens for Easton feel the development proposed by Saddle Ridge would be a danger to our drinking water.

But…we can’t do it alone

Attendance is critical: Thursday, Dec 22 7:00 PM HKMS

 

Citizens for Easton relies on donations

Click HERE to donate via PayPal and add instruction “CSE” or send your checks made out to Citizens for Easton with Coalition to Save Easton (CSE) in the memo, and mail to Citizens for Easton, PO Box 151, Easton, CT 06612. CSE is a division of CFE which is a registered 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt organization. With your support we can continue to hire experts to help in our efforts to protect and preserve our water supply.

Please contact

Rob Maquat, Planning & Zoning Chairman via email at manania@eastonct.gov and Dori Wollen, Conservation Commission Chairperson at kring@eastonct.gov, or send a letter to them at 225 Center Road, Easton, CT 06612.

Thank you  for your passion, support and dedication to something that affects every one of us – the environment and the future of our town. Citizens for Easton/CSE will continue to advocate to uphold Easton’s zoning and to protect the safety of the public drinking water supply.

NEW SADDLE RIDGE THREAT TO WATERSHED

Droughts have a way of focusing our attention here in Easton. Lawns dry out, leaves too. Empty streambeds wind through dessicated woods enroute to reservoirs that slowly, then quickly, recede to regain a widening shoreline. What happens below ground is even more dramatic: Water tables drop, well levels too, and slowly, that which we take for granted  begins to assert an ominous hypothetical: What if water is no longer there to take for granted?

Easton is a water town — it has been our heritage and now, our destiny. Without the need for water, Easton might not even exist, or certainly not in the unique form of today. Reservoirs and the watersheds that sustain them have shaped our character for well over a century, but those watersheds sustain far more than just those: They sustain us.

This drought — hopefully relieved by rain — does at least offer another opportunity to remind ourselves why precious — and not automatically renewable — resources like water matter so much. By protecting this resource, we protect Easton’s county-wide mandate to provide a clean and steady supply of water. By protecting this, we ensure that  the next generation has a viable template  for conservation too. But most of all, by protecting this we ensure the health of our families, and our children.

As you are perhaps aware, there is yet another Saddle Ridge application before Planning and Zoning that seeks to build a cluster housing development on watershed land. Citizens for Easton has previously and successfully fought this assault on our health and on our water, and be assured, CFE will oppose this application as well.

We hope all Eastonites understand the vital importance of protecting a resource we can no longer take for granted. The health and well-being of our children, and their children, depend on it.

Verne Gay

Board Chairman

Citizens for Easton

Connecticut Audubon Society supports preservation of South Park Avenue property

Following is text of the letter from the Executive Director of the Connecticut Audubon Society to the Easton Board of Selectmen:
The Connecticut Audubon Society joins with Citizens for Easton in its concern about the future of 29.6 acres on South Park Avenue adjacent to the Mill River. Development of this town-owned land will compromise a small but beautiful wildlife habitat that plays an important watershed protection role for the river, and is a much-used and enjoyed passive outdoor recreational area for birdwatchers, anglers, artists and school groups.
The Mill River is one of only nine Class A Wild Trout Streams left in Connecticut and is unique because it is pristine and cold enough to sustain wild trout despite being on the edge of a suburban area. Wild brook and brown trout are among 17 fish species listed as “most important” in the Connecticut Wildlife Action Plan.
Preserving the property would also be consistent with Easton’s Town Plan of Conservation and Development, which states as its “cardinal principle”: “The major policies and goals of the Town Plan in respect to resource conservation are: Protect the natural, scenic, historical and cultural resources of the town, especially its wetlands, streambelts and ground water resources, but also its steep slopes, ridgelines, major trees and significant wildlife areas …”
The Connecticut Audubon Society is the state’s original, independent Audubon. We and our many members in Easton look forward to your leadership as exemplary stewards of the environment by supporting the preservation the 29.6 acres on South Park Avenue as open space in perpetuity for current and future generations.
Sincerely,
Nelson North
Executive Director

Mill River Park proposed for South Park

Nancy Doniger on August 25, 2016

Citizens for Easton wants to preserve the South Park Avenue tract as a park, which they have named the Mill River Park. — Bryan Haeffele photo

Mill River Park … forever yours or forever gone. That is the title of Citizens for Easton’s proposal to retain the 29.6 acres of town-owned property at 22 South Park Avenue as open space in perpetuity by making it a town park.

Passive recreation at Mill River Park would bring enjoyment that’s appealing to all, according to the proposal. Activities would include catch-and-release fishing, en plein air painting, picnicking, walks, photography, school study groups and bird watching.

Former first Selectman William J. Kupinse Jr. presented the Mill River Park proposal in a slideshow to the Board of Selectmen and residents who packed the community room at the Easton Public Library. — Bryan Haeffele photo

Former first Selectman William J. Kupinse Jr. presented the proposal in a slideshow to the Board of Selectmen and residents who packed the community room at the Easton Public Library, filling every seat and spilling over into standing room in the back.

“Citizens for Easton was founded back in the 70s, and the reason it was founded was to prevent development on this very piece of property,” Kupinse said.

He provided a brief overview of the group’s successful preservation projects over the years and invited anyone who is interested to “join up with us.”

“We are not as some people have suggested a bunch of trouble makers,” he said. “We have tried instead to preserve the Easton we know and love.”

Roughly 67 people, from 20-somethings to senior citizens, turned out for the Aug. 18 meeting to hear Citizens for Easton’s ideas, the latest in a growing list of proposals for the site the selectmen have heard over the past two years.

The town owes $4.6 million for the South Park tract, which it purchased in 2008 from Running Brook Farm. At the time, the site was the subject of a 72-unit high-density affordable housing application scheduled for trial in Superior Court in Litchfield.

Voters agreed at a June 17, 2008, referendum to appropriate $6.15 million “… for preservation, conservation and land use control purposes … ,“ according to the ballot, which is posted on the town website, Eastonct.gov, under South Park Information, along with related documents.

“This was not a proposal to buy the to buy the land for open space,” according to the minutes of a special town meeting June 9, 2008, that preceded the referendum.

“Although the town would purchase the land, it would simultaneously sell a two-year lease/purchase option to the New England Prayer Center for $300,000. This amount would cover the town’s cost during the option period. If the lease/purchase option was not exercised, the town could sell 14 1-acre lots to cover the cost of the purchase and retain the remainder of the land as open space,” the minutes state.

The town lease-and-purchase-option agreement with the nonprofit New England Prayer Center permitted six-month extensions if the town’s approval of the prayer center’s building plan was appealed by a third party, which it was.

The prayer center lost its final option to purchase the property after six years and multiple lawsuits. It has submitted a new proposal, which the selectmen are considering along with the others.

Resident Amy Zima said she and her family chose to live in Easton over neighboring towns because of its open space and pastoral qualities. — Bryan Haeffele photo

A park for southern Easton

Easton is a jewel in Fairfield County that is not replicated anywhere else, Kupinse said.

“It is an amazing town,” he said. “If you want development, there are plenty of towns for you to go to.”

Citizens for Easton has proposed the Mill River Park for South Park, not for themselves but for future generations, he said.

“Some of us are getting older and will perhaps be going somewhere else when we go from here, and it’s not to another town,” he said, generating laughs. “We have a generation coming up that really needs what we have here in Easton, and I would urge everyone to support this.”

He said he could speak about what’s wrong with the other proposals, but instead was taking a positive approach in recommending Mill River Park for the site. He said it makes sense for financial reasons to have a park in southern Easton. It also makes sense from a planning and zoning standpoint, and Citizens for Easton supports what the P&Z has done over these many years; it further makes sense for protection of natural resources, he said.

Easton has a lot of open space, much of it is not conducive to walking on it, and most of it is in the northern part of the town, he said.

“Mill River Park would be an ideal neighborhood park for southern Easton, and it is more accessible than the open space in the northern part of town,” Kupinse said.

The South Park Avenue tract is an iconic gateway to Easton, just off the Merritt Parkway, and one of the main routes into Easton.

“Mill River Park makes sense for financial reasons,” Kupinse said. “Many communities feel they have to develop their land. Actually studies show it’s less expensive if you have open space or anything without buildings on it. Once you start putting buildings on it, it costs more to supply all the benefits homeowners want than the town would get in taxes.”

South Park costs the town less than 1% of its $43 million budget, he said. “If we sell it taxes aren’t going  to go down. It makes good sense that if it’s less than 1% we’re keeping it.”

Right now the property is costing taxpayers $160 a year. If the town bonds the property, it will drop to $120 a year per household. After 20 years the debt would be repaid, and Easton would own the property, he said.

“It’s cheaper to have non-developed property than to develop it and spend taxes on it,” he said. “Controlling the property saves money.”

In the past the town has had some fights over development, and it costs money to defend it. If South Park has a new owner, the owner can promise anything, but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to try to do something else in the future, he said.

“If we own it, we don’t have to defend it,” he said.

If the town sells it to a non profit, it can get payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for it, but based on the condition of the state there is no guarantee the PILOT funds will continue to provide a positive cash flow. If the town sells it to a for-profit entity, it will have to supply services in return for the taxes it will receive, he said.

P&Z supplied a report on putting senior housing on the site at the request of the selectmen, but “I suppose there’s no harm in looking at things, but I hope people realize it’s not the vision for the property that we should have,” he said.

Mill River Park makes sense from planning point of view because the town can keep the property in conformity with the vision P&Z has for Easton.

If the town has a referendum as the selectmen have suggested, he urges them not to have two choices such as athletics and senior housing. He said they should have open space as one of the choices.

“We have nature’s classroom in our backyard, and we should keep it,” Kupinse said. “Once we sell it, it’s gone.”

Addressing the Board of Selectmen, James Prosek said he supports Citizens for Easton's proposal. He and Laura Modlin created the Mill River Heritage Project, an educational website to educate the public about the Mill River. — Bryan Haeffele photo

Residents at the meeting overwhelmingly favored preservation of the site for open space and urged town officials not to sell it. Many of them delivered impassioned prepared statements to applause and in some cases, a standing ovation. Others gave spontaneous remarks.

Comments from residents and the Board of Selectmen are in a separate article in the Aug. 25 Easton Courier. Watch for our video coming soon at EastonCourier.com