NEW BRITAIN - A small but passionate group of residents and advocates spoke against the cityâ€™s plan to sell 15 acres of watershed property in Burlington that was likely purchased to prevent development near a proposed reservoir site during a public hearing Monday.
Burlington officials agreed to pay $276,000 for the 15 acres, which rest near land owned by the city that was purchased to build the Lamson Corner Reservoir.
A builder has already expressed interest in buying the property from the town of Burlington, according to minutes of a Special Town Meeting held in Burlington in February.
But the town, which was approached by Mayor Erin Stewart about the sale, will likely buy the property and sell it to a developer at a later date.
The potential sale flies in the face of â€śthe foresight of city fathers to purchase more than 1,000 acres at the turn of the century,â€ť said Bill Ostapchuk, who spoke against the plan. â€śOwnership prevents development.â€ť
More than one resident pointed out that in the past three years the city has attempted to sell off valuable water resources at a time when climate change is expected to heavily impact New England. â€śMoves to jettison parts of the watershed are very risky,â€ť said former Democratic Town Committee Chair John McNamara. â€śI urge you to reject the sale.â€ť
By rejecting the sale, the city would be creating â€śa clear policy on water resources,â€ť he said.
Under heavy opposition, Stewart and a Republican majority in 2016 agreed to sell Patton Brook Well to the town of Southington during the worst drought in decades. But the mayor withdrew the application for the sale after the state Department of Public Health failed to approve the proposal.
The well and the land in Burlington that was purchased decades ago to potentially build the Lamson Corner Reservoir has now become embroiled in controversy as residents and environmentalists are battling a proposal to allow Tilcon to extend its quarry toward Shuttle Meadow Reservoir.
City officials contend that the quarry proposal will benefit New Britain when Tilcon returns the land, which is protected watershed, back to the city to be used as a reservoir. More than 200 angry residents spoke against the Tilcon plan during a public hearing a few weeks ago. Proponents, including New Britainâ€™s water director, contend that Patton Brook Well will not be able to provide the same water resources as the quarry and that the Lamson Corner Reservoir is too expensive and too complicated to build.
Lenard Engineering, the same firm that conducted an environmental study of the Tilcon plan and concluded that it wouldnâ€™t pollute the water supply, told city officials in 2009 that the practice of purchasing land surrounding a potential water resource was a good strategy to protect against development.
Mondayâ€™s public hearing was held before the city councilâ€™s Committee on Planning, Zoning and Housing. In order for the sale of the land to proceed, the committee will have to send the proposal to the entire city council for review.
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com