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Meeting Set On Land Purchase

Town Considers Buying 420 Acres

By DIANE STRUZZI
And MARK SPENCER Courant Staff Writers

September 7 2006

A special town meeting to consider the town's acquisition of 420 acres owned by the Ethel Walker School has been set for 7 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Simsbury High School auditorium.

The board of selectmen voted unanimously Tuesday to set the time and date and approved the question about the land acquisition that will go to voters in November.

Town officials have approved a financing proposal for the land acquisition, which would be spread over several years.

The proposal has been divided into two questions. The first question will be open for discussion at the town meeting, but will not be voted on until a referendum Nov. 7. It calls for a $7 million appropriation - $5 million from bonds and $2 million from the town's reserves - to purchase about 360 acres.

The second part of the proposal calls for the town to set aside $1 million from its reserves on the March 2007 closing date. The public will vote at the October hearing on whether to set aside that funding.

The $1 million would act as a deposit for the remaining acres, would give the town a conservation easement for the next five years and would set a purchase price at $3.1 million. In April 2012, the town would have three options: It could buy all of the property for $3.1 million; it could buy half the property for $2 million and receive an additional two years to purchase the rest of the land; or it could choose not to purchase the property and lose its $1 million deposit.

If the town decided to purchase the land, town officials would have to approve the balance at that time.

The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit conservation organization, is committed to raising about $2.75 million toward the overall purchase price. The preservation effort has already generated about $775,000 in pledges, according to an official from the trust.

Contact Diane Struzzi at dstruzzi@courant.com.

Copyright 2006, Hartford Courant