http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/editorials/hc-ethelw5nov30,0,4776513.story


Trust Joins Preservation Effort




November 30 2005

SIMSBURY -- Although the Trust for Public Land signed an agreement with Simsbury officials to help preserve 450 acres of woodland owned by the Ethel Walker School that is proposed for development, there is still no assurance that the land will be saved.

The arrangement is the first of many steps that must take place to prevent the school from building a large luxury-home subdivision. Plans call for construction of more than 120 houses on 165 acres of the property, which is zoned residential. Homes would be built on 1- and 2-acre lots and sold for about $1 million.

Under the terms of the accord, the trust has taken the lead in trying to negotiate a fair purchase price for the property.

Assuming that the school and the trust can establish a reasonable value for the land, town officials would then have to settle on how much it could reimburse the trust for a portion of the preservation costs. The town's contribution would be subject to a referendum.

If residents authorize the spending, the trust would then seek to raise the remainder of the purchase price privately. Then, the trust would buy the land or the development rights and transfer ownership to the town.

There may be opportunities for the trust to raise some of the funds from foundations, but officials at the trust have advised that most of the private funds are likely to be solicited from concerned Simsbury residents and school alumni.

Nothing is guaranteed. Nevertheless, residents have good reason to feel optimistic. The trust, a national organization, has a good record of preserving open space.

Correction

A state grant will pay half the cost of installing artificial turf at West Hartford's high schools, up to a maximum of $1 million. Tuesday's editorial "Turf Standing Up To Grass" misstated the terms of the grant.

Copyright 2005, Hartford Courant