Sharp Debate Over Land Swap Proposal
Opponents say swapping and developing the land goes against the deed.
For the third year in a row lawmakers are considering a bill that would swap a parcel of state-owned land next to the Connecticut River in Haddam for a much bigger parcel adjacent to a state forest. WNPR’s Nancy Cohen reports opponents want the land near the river preserved.
In 2003 the state bought a parcel of land for $1.35 million and preserved it as a wildlife management area. It includes meadows, woods and views across the Connecticut River. Just up the hill from the property is a banquet hall called the Riverhouse. Senator Eileen Daily is proposing the state exchange these 17 acres with the owners of Riverhouse Properties for 87 acres of woods next to the Cockaponset State Forest in Haddam. Daily says the Riverhouse owners could develop the land with its views of the river into a small hotel, creating what she calls an "economic engine".
“The town of Haddam and the town of East Haddam would benefit by having a greater tourist destination than East Haddam has on its own. And the state would benefit by the economic development.”
The proposal has the support of the first selectmen from Haddam and East Haddam. But a group called the Citizens for the Protection of Public Land want to ‘stop the swap’. That’s their slogan. Daria Thompson, a member of the group, is walking the land towards the river. She points out that the deed, signed by the state when it purchased the property, says the parcel “should be retained in its natural scenic or open condition.”
“Public space, especially along the Connecticut River, is so important. On principle and ethic and legality I can’t turn away from this issue.”
The Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection isn’t commenting on the proposal. The Senate is expected to vote on it towards the end of the legislative session.
For WNPR I’m Nancy Cohen.