Sale of Ledges house site to boost open space fund goes to voters

Townspeople will be asked to approve the sale of three acres of Conservation Commission land Wednesday, May 9, at a town meeting at 7:30 in town hall. The land proposed for sale would be subdivided as a potential building lot from 28 acres the Conservation Commission acquired in 2012.

The large tract was purchased as open space for $825,000 but there was an understanding that three acres might be sold to help replenish the open space fund — now at about $236,000.

“We proposed it as a way to ameliorate some of the cost of the purchase,” Conservation Commission member Ben Oko told the selectmen, putting the plan before them Feb. 21.

The potential sale of three acres was discussed — and permission for it made part of the resolution passed — at the December 2012 Town Meeting that had approved the initial purchase, Oko said.

First Selectman Rudy Marconi made that point this week, discussing next week’s town meeting.

“It’s pretty clear-cut the original Town Meeting, held a couple of years ago for the purpose of purchasing the entire parcel of 28, 29 acres, included a provision that would allow the Conservation Commission to sell a portion of said property,” Marconi said Monday. “We need to bring it to a town meeting for approval of the sale.”

Oko had originally told the selectmen the Conservation Commissioners wanted a town meeting  “reauthorizing our existing right to sell” the three acres so they could be confident about their plan before spending an estimated $5,000 to $10,000 on engineering studies, surveying and maps needed to legally create a buildable lot out of the larger 28-acre parcel.

“It needs to be subdivided and it needs to be tested for septic — all of which will be done once the town meeting approves it,” Marconi said Monday, “because you don’t want to incur any cost if the town meeting says no.

“We chose that lot,” Oko said of the three acres selected for sale, “because unless you’re a mountain goat it doesn’t connect to the top of the property.”

However, a neighbor challenged the Conservation Commission’s judgment that the three acres had “no environmental value” when the proposed sale was discussed during an April 4 public hearing.

“It’s a very nice place to hike,” said Donald Bostwick of Sherwood Road.

“It’s not an important piece environmentally,” Oko insisted. “It’s locked in by houses on both sides. There’s a cliff at the back of the property.”

Bostwick also worried that if the three acres were sold as a lot, the construction that followed would result in a lot of noise — as had happened when two nearby lots were built on.

“Equipment ran from 8 in the morning until 8 at night,” he said.

At the hearing it was also explained that there would still be access to the larger open space from elsewhere on Ledges Road if the lot with its Ledges frontage were sold.

Oko didn’t speculate on the price the three acres would get on the market.

Oko also declined to reveal the location of the potential open space property the commission was raising money to buy.