Southington considers fourth open space deal this year

Southington considers fourth open space deal this year

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SOUTHINGTON — Ten acres of undeveloped land on Sherry Drive is the latest open space deal under consideration by town officials and the fourth this year.

The mostly wooded property at 55 Sherry Drive is adjacent to town-owned open space to the north and close to Karabin Farms to the west.

The property will cost the town $400,000.

“It’s connected to a number of different areas that are important,” said Paul Chaplinsky, a Town Council Republican and open space acquisition committee chairman. “There’s a nice wildlife corridor to be preserved.”

Buying the property will also prevent housing development, a common request from town residents, according to Chaplinsky.

“We’re going to prevent around six building lots from being developed there,” he said.

Sherry Drive is off Wedgewood Road in the Wild Oak Drive subdivision off Flanders Road.

Town records show the land is owned by Jessica Davenport, a real estate agent with Putnam Agency Real Estate. She couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.

Other property owners in the area of 55 Sherry Drive include Putnam Agency owner Sherry Davenport, who owns three adjacent parcels and James Putnam Jr.

Chaplinsky said Jessica Davenport was willing to work with the town, which can’t pay top dollar for properties. The seller has to want to see the land preserved, he said.

“That’s the case here,” Chaplinsky said.

Four open space deals made public this year

On Monday, the Town Council will vote whether to send the purchase to the Planning and Zoning Commission for review. The council will also vote on whether to purchase land and development rights for Greenleaf Bros. Stables on Laning Street. Under the deal, the town will buy two acres of the farm outright, adding it to neighboring open space, for $110,000. Development rights, which prevent the farm owners from building houses, would cost the town $225,000.

In April, the council voted along party lines to buy 16 acres of wooded land on Mount Vernon Road partially owned by a councilor. Bill Dziedzic, a Republican, owned the property with Joseph Calvanese III as part of Precision Property Management. Dziedzic didn’t take part in the council vote. 

Republicans supported the purchase for $130,000, saying it preserved land and that Dziedzic hadn’t been a party to the negotiations. Democrats said there was a perception of a conflict and unsuccessfully opposed the deal.

In May, the council agreed to buy 471 Canal St., a third of an acre next to the town-owned train depot, for $85,000. It will be used to expand parking for the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail and could eventually be used for public restrooms.

Campaign promises

In the 2019 municipal election where they took the council majority, Republican candidates criticized the previous Democratic majority for not prioritizing the purchase of open space. Republicans now hold six of the nine council seats.

Town officials have also pointed to the passage of referendums approving money for open space purchases as a desire for less development and more land preservation.

“Since I’ve been on council now for just about a year, it was clear to me that the voters voted at the last referendum to prevent development through open space acquisition and preservation of some of the farming,” Chaplinsky said. “The open space committee and farm heritage committee together, as one, is focused on delivering the commitments we made.”

In addition to open space, Chaplinsky said the town has been working to preserve agriculture and barns on farm properties.

With the exception of the Mount Vernon Road property, Democratic councilor Chris Poulos said his party has “wholeheartedly” supported open space purchases.

“Collectively, Democratic or Republican, majority or minority, we have all been committed to the acquisition of open space,” Poulos said. “I don’t see open space as a partisan issue. There’s an overwhelming sentiment in town that people want to preserve open space.”

He supported the purchase of 55 Sherry Drive, saying it had strategic value for the town since it helped enlarge existing open space.

“There’s a great return on that parcel because it’s adjacent to something we already own,” Poulos said.

Chris Palmieri, a Democratic councilor and member of the open space committee, said he also supported the Sherry Drive purchase. Other parcels, such as the Mount Vernon Road land, had been considered by the town for years. Real estate deals are kept in executive session while negotiations are underway.

“Overall, I think that there’s been a lot of work over the years leading to some of the open space purchases that we’ve had before us,” Palmieri said. “Some we’re still pursuing from a couple years ago.” 

The Sherry Drive purchase would leave more than $1 million in the town’s open space acquisition account, Chaplinsky said. Town officials are pursuing “a number of opportunities,” he added.

Open space purchases are likely to be of smaller properties.

“There are not many large parcels of land in town that are 50, 60-plus acres,” Chaplinsky said. “The numbers of those parcels that are left are few and far between… We’re trying to strategically look at parcels that make sense.”

jbuchanan@record-journal.com203-317-2230Twitter: @JBuchananRJ

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