Thursday, February 16, 2006

Trouble for "The Preserve"

My general rule of thumb is that when it comes to real estate development proposals, the more Orwellian the name, the worse the development will be for the environment. A subdivision called “The Meadows,” for example, almost surely destroys the meadows it is named after. A condo development called “Soundview” no doubt blocks everybody’s view of the Sound. Even so, it takes a set of brass ones to name a 1,000-acre development featuring 220 houses and a golf course “The Preserve.”

For that amazing level of cynicism we have River Sound Development, a subsidiary of the Lehman Brothers investment firm, to thank. The 1,000 acres that “The Preserve” would occupy is in Old Saybrook, and is described by opponents of the development (who are numerous) as “at the heart of the last and largest unprotected forest and wetland complex on Connecticut’s coast.” (This map is from the Connecticut Fund for the Environment website.)

Old Saybrook officials are apparently ready to rubber stamp their approval. But luckily the best way in to the property – maybe the only way, for all I know – is across the Valley Railroad State Park, which is owned and operated by the Connecticut DEP. I say “luckily” because for River Sound to build a bridge across the park to its land, it needs DEP permission. And last week, Commissioner Gina McCarthy said no way.

“As a result of the uncertainties related to the physical impacts the overpass and roadway system would have on the Valley Railroad State Park, the resulting constriction of the park from its existing 100 foot wide path to a 20 foot wide passageway designed to pass a single train, the potential to further limit the use of this railway to trains of a certain width and height, and the overall negative aesthetic impact such an activity would have on this section of the state park, the Connecticut DEP is unwilling to grant River Sound Development’s request to construct an overpass over Valley Railroad State Park.”

CFE has put McCarthy’s letter on its website, here. And the New London Day wrote about it today, here.

In a statement the other day, CFE said that it hopes the DEP decision will prompt River Sound to begin discussions about a fair market sale of the property to turn it into a real preserve. It’s not clear to me who would be buying the property (perhaps the state) but if I were them I’d be ordering an appraisal and would be on the phone today with River Sound’s attorney.


Blogger Sam said...

That's my old stomping grounds, Tom, Clinton, Old Saybrook, and Essex. Thanks for the memories.

10:38 PM  

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