OPINION: A solution for a sand barren in Wallingford

OPINION: A solution for a sand barren in Wallingford

There’s been a development concerning the development of a tract of land in Wallingford George Washington found so interesting a couple of centuries ago. Namely, a developer who appears willing to compromise.

The land is a 25-acre site that contains a sand barren and dry acidic forest. You might not think that sounds interesting, but apparently it’s fascinating  and increasingly rare because it is home to a number of threatened or endangered species or what they call species of special concern, as in the dark-bellied tiger beetle and the northern dusk singing cicada.

According to a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, 95 percent of the sand plain habitat in Connecticut that is a suitable environment for this type of life has already been lost. 

That leaves Wallingford responsible for the little that is left.

Not too long ago I asked how much responsibility should the town be held to when it comes to this site?

It was a rhetorical question. The answer is none. The town doesn’t have any responsibility whatsoever. What responsibility there is is voluntary, which makes the developer’s plan worth supporting.

This is a good compromise, one that takes into account the interests of those who would not like to see a preciously rare environment completely disappear with the interests of doing business and a growing economy. A good compromise also lets us set aside Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr.’s inept handling of the situation, where he simply took the word of a report he hadn’t seen that said there was nothing left on the land worth preserving.

The business side of the plan goes like this: Rusty Rogers, a developer, would like to buy the land from Allnex and over a four- to five-year period excavate sand there, then he’d build a 230,000-square-foot warehouse and a 21,000-square-foot office building.

There’s a mitigation part of the plan designed to take into account the fears for the rare habitat, as in the sand plain, that would preserve it in a buffer area surrounding the property and create a man-made sand barren once the excavation is complete. 

Now, you can get lost as the details about such things add up, but it seems significant that part of the plan is to bring back plants that were once on the site but are no longer there, to help support these rare and endangered species. As Rogers’s attorney, Joan Molloy, told the town Planning and Zoning Commission the other night, “if we get to do our development and do the mitigation, we’ll have the sand barren that otherwise would not last.”

The sand barren appears to be the key here, with about 7 acres of it on the 25-acre site. State Rep. Mary Mushinsky, the Wallingford Democrat, said at the meeting she was happy most of the development would be on the acidic forest part of the property.

It was Mushinsky who brought up the George Washington connection, in an opinion piece that ran in these pages last month. She noted that the “sand plains stood out to travelers like Washington because only certain widely spaced flower, grasses, scattered trees, associated insects and a few vertebrates such as Fowler’s toads lived on the sandy barrens.”

It’s worth preserving.

Not everyone is going to be satisfied. There are those who will favor doing nothing with the site. But from what I gather what’s precious about it might be lost in time anyway, to the encroaching acidic forest. From that point of view a developer’s plan to move the site into the future while maintaining a portion of the past is more than a reasonable approach. It sounds like a solution.

Reach Jeffery Kurz at 203-317-2213, or jkurz@record-journal.com