Letter: No gift to charter

To the Editor:

As a member of the Schlumberger Citizens Committee, I was disappointed by The Press editorial advocating the sale of a one-acre parcel to Charter Group Partners. In my view, any such sale should not be motivated by a desire to recoup the town’s investment, rationale cited in both the editorial and by our First Selectman, but by a fair economic deal for taxpayers that reflects the value of the parcel.

The Sunset Lane project has been a great success for both our town and Charter. The town has added an attractive property to the tax rolls. Charter has made far more than its expected return on investment.

Charter initially underwrote this project with coach homes priced at $450K and townhomes priced at $675K. An analysis of property transfers indicates that Charter has been closing coach homes at an average of $506K per unit and townhomes at $883K per unit.

Three years ago, residents rejected a proposed sale of the Charter site for the construction of 24 townhomes priced at $700K. At that time, Toll Brothers offered $167K in land cost per townhome versus Charter’s current offer of only $130K. Charter is the only potential purchaser of the one acre parcel in question. That, combined with the notion that the town may be simply looking to recoup its investment, may help explain Charter’s self-serving offer. If generating revenue is the town’s objective, the Citizens Committee identified other parcels that could be sold that would not impact the proposed cultural center.

As much as the town’s investment in the property should be a consideration, the $971K mentioned as the town’s all-in cost appears to be understated as it does not seem to include the investment required under the two recently-signed leases or five years of carrying costs since the parcel was acquired in 2012. The town would need to generate well above $971K in proceeds to balance out the ledger.

I could support a sale to Charter but only at a fair price. I cannot support a town-sponsored gift to Charter under any circumstances.

Tim O’Connor

Editor’s note: O’Connor is expressing his opinion, and not speaking on behalf of the Citizens Committee.