AP NEWS

New Milford not sure it wants acres of donated land

March 14, 2019

Who doesn’t want 35 acres of Connecticut woods and hills?

Well — maybe the Town of New Milford.

That’s the acreage near Tory’s Cave that might be donated to the town — but the town needs to think about it.

Rather than a valuable resource, some Town Council members worry the gift would be a financial liability.

The land would connect a protected Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust property with the 25 acres already donated to the town in 2012, for a total of 170 continuous acres, said Chris Charles, who is representing Eagle Holdings, the owners of the land.

“It really is the linchpin to this whole area,” Charles said.

The property is valued at $400,000, and he said it has pristine wetlands, as well as a portion of the Blue Trail — a statewide hiking trail. About three acres of it is considered core farmland.

But some Town Council members wondered if this was a property the town could take on, especially as it grapples with state funding cuts and is trying to sell unused properties it already owns.

During the council’s Monday meeting they requested more information on the site before making a decision.

Councilwoman Katy Francis said the town might not be able to do anything with the property without spending money it doesn’t have right now, adding it could be a liability to the town that would require more insurance.

She also said the property was very sloped and probably couldn’t be developed.

Council members also wondered if this property has gone on the market before and questioned the precedent of waiving the taxes for this half of the year — which the owner is requesting — when it’s already mid-March.

This is the first time this piece has been listed by itself. The entire property was listed a while ago, but 25 acres of it were donated to the town in 2012 and 22 acres were sold to be developed into condos once the property was cleaned up, Charles said.

He said there are some level parts on the property and though the initial access to the property isn’t easy, they are working with an engineer about how to fix that and create parking.

Charles said the owner wants to donate it to the town, which can determine the best use for the property, while a land trust would only focus on preservation.

He also said Weantinoge wants the property but it was unable to come to terms with the owner.

“Your economic development team has an excellent process for reviewing a piece of land and determining what’s the best comprehensive plan for something,” he said. “That’s something the town of New Milford can bring to the table that a land trust can’t do.”

kkoerting@newstimes.com; 203-731-3345