Citizens’ Group To Withdraw Appeal Would Encourage Talks Over Preserving Ethel Walker School Property,0,266955.story

Citizens’ Group To Withdraw Appeal

Would Encourage Talks Over Preserving Ethel Walker School Property

Courant Staff Writer

September 13 2005

SIMSBURY — A citizens’ group has promised to withdraw a legal appeal it hoped could stall the Ethel Walker School’s plans to build a large development of luxury homes on its wooded campus.

Keep the Woods group felt emboldened by recent talks between the town, school and a land preservation group, said Susan Masino, a member. Instead of focusing on litigation, the group decided to encourage the three to enter into an agreement for the purchase of development rights to the school’s 450-acre parcel.

The group’s decision to withdraw its Superior Court filing pleased both the school and the town, named as plaintiffs in the action.

“We’re always pleased when litigants withdraw lawsuits against the town,” Robert DeCrescenzo, the town attorney, said Monday. “It saves everybody a lot of time and energy.”

In their court complaint filed last month, the citizens’ group objected to a July conservation commission decision to approve a campus wetlands map the school submitted recently.

Until Monday, the town was in the process of responding to the complaint, which required officials to compile all of the paperwork and maps the school submitted to the conservation commission record.

“Not an easy task,” DeCrescenzo said.

The appeal or lawsuit focused on narrow procedural points in the land-use approval process. It boiled down to this: Ethel Walker needed the commission’s approval of the map to proceed with its plans, and the citizens, who want to stop the development of the property, didn’t agree with the way the town approved the new map.

Just describing the legal filing caused contention. The town called it a lawsuit, the Keep the Woods group insisted on referring to it as merely an appeal.

The group’s decision to drop the lawsuit seemed to lessen the tension.

“It seems pretty promising that everyone’s talking to the trust for public land,” Masino said.

Kyle Corkum, a land-use consultant hired by the school, said the talks are preliminary between the school, town and the Trust for Public Land, but said he is hopeful the three can reach a fair agreement to save the property.

Corkum said the school’s preference has always been to sell the town the development rights to the property, but “the problem has always been that the school could not get a fair price for the land.”

The school has said it has a “fiduciary responsibility” to build up its endowment and needs to manage its property to provide the greatest financial return for the school.

Copyright 2005, Hartford Courant

Leave a Reply