Woman who sold land to town of Southington for open space unhappy about farm lease

Woman who sold land to town of Southington for open space unhappy about farm lease


SOUTHINGTON — A member of a local family who sold land to the town for open space said she’s unhappy with a lease allowing a farm to use the land.

Elizabeth Upson Stanley spoke to the Town Council last week, urging the town to clear or mow the fields and meadows less often to allow for natural growth and animal habitat.

The town’s farm heritage committee has signed leases with local farmers to hay fields or continue farming on former agricultural plots, including property formerly owned by the Upson family at 18 Upson Place on the Cheshire town line.

Ed Pocock III, a Republican town councilor and co-chairman of the farm heritage committee, said the leases provide the town with free land maintenance and help local farmers by providing low-cost feed hay in some cases or space for growing vegetables in others.

“We win because it’s maintained for free and they win because they get bales of hay out of it,” he said.

Stanley sold 33 acres around Marion Avenue to the town for $253,000 in 2014. John Carmody, of Carmody’s Farm in Cheshire, will manage the Upson property for the next five years, according to the $1 per year lease approved by the council earlier this year.

Vegetables used to be grown on a portion of the Upson parcel, Pocock said, and Carmody is continuing that practice.

Stanley told councilors last week that mowing meadows only occasionally would provide more habitat for animals and encourage wildflower growth. Mowing it less often would keep it from returning to forest but also prevent it from being frequently disrupted. She said her former property acts as a wildlife corridor.

“That meadow is continuous with mountain woodland and wetland open space parcels,” Stanley said.

John Barry, a Democratic town councilor, said he’s opposed to the lease with Carmody and added there was environmental value in minimally disturbed meadows.

“I never supported the concept of using public land for profit for any individual,” he said of the Upson parcel.

Since Stanley sold her land to the town for open space and public use, he added, it should not be farmed.

“The wishes of the property owner that allows the town to gain title to that land, those wishes should be forever respected,” Barry said.

Stanley said she hoped the council could evaluate the leases when they expire.

Pocock said without maintenance, open space becomes nearly unusable. If farmers aren’t haying fields, the town would have to pay for mowing and brush clearing yearly.

“Who’s going to pay for that?” he said. “I don’t see anybody coming forward with a checkbook.”

He agreed that meadows were important, but said no one had come forward with a reasonable plan for maintaining one on town-owned property. Left unchecked, meadows would revert to forest.

Local farmers should be supported, Pocock said. They were hardly getting rich through leases for town land, he added.

“They barely can make ends meet, these farmers,” he said.

jbuchanan@recordjournal.com 203-317-2230 Twitter: @JBuchananRJ

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