Open Space Referendum on Nov Ballot: Common Council Approves

Reprinted from today on Right of Middle:

Middletown’s Common Council unanimously approved the addition of the Open Space purchase and Sewage Improvement bonding to the Nov. 6 ballot. The action taken last evening will enable the city to purchase for preservation up to 500 additional acres of farmland. The amount of that bonding is $2M. The sewage improvements bonding, if approved, will authorize the spending of $8.62M. These new ballot items will bring the total of referendums on the Nov 6 to three as there is already a proposal to spend 9.99M on street improvements. The benefits of open space preservation are clear as a report in today’s Hartford Courant points out:

Preservationists told the council that there are few better investments than open space.

Bonds totaling $8 million have helped finance the purchase of nearly 700 acres of woodlands and recreation space in the past 18 years – land that likely would have become housing subdivisions had it not been preserved. As a result, the supporters said, Middletown has saved the several million dollars it would have otherwise spent in city services.

If approved by the voters, the additional $2 million would trigger up to $4 million in state grants* and allow the city to buy up to 500 more acres.

*The CT DEP has a program which helps municipalities purchase open space land:

Land acquired under the program must be preserved in perpetuity:

(1) as open space land in its natural condition, (2) for water supply protection, or (3) as farmland. The state must be given an easement to ensure that the land is preserved for the purpose for which it was acquired. The easement must include a requirement that the property be made available to the general public for appropriate recreational purposes, unless just the development rights have been purchased or where general public access would disrupt agricultural activity.

Jonah Center Executive Director John Hall comments:

“All the members of the Common Council appeared to understand the desirability of preserving farms and open space.  Not only does it preserve the aesthetic appeal of our city, save habititat for wildlife, avoid harmful storm run off from residential development, and provide for local food production, but it saves the city in the long run because housing development increases the demand for expensive city services.  Everyone wins when farms are preserved and remain in production.  Now we need to make sure the voters understand and support this initiative in November.”

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