Council approves open space purchase on School St., Marion Ave.

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At the Feb. 24 town council meeting, councilors unanimously moved forward with a purchase of two open space parcels—one at 136 School St. and one at 1205 Marion Ave.—by referring the vote to the planning and zoning commission to review.

The Marion Avenue property will cost about $105,000 and the School Street property will cost about $160,000. The town has secured $82,600 in grant money from the Connecticut Open Space and Watershed grant, which will help fund the purchase of both properties.

The two properties nearly touch. They are separated by one parcel of land between them, but there are easements on that parcel that prevent any building on it.

“The attractiveness for the two parcels together is that, when you combine them with the fact that there’s not going to be any development on the other parcel, it creates a wildlife corridor,” said open space committee chair Paul Chaplinsky Jr. “This purchase is funded partially by a state grant to the town, and it’s nice that the state recognizes the value of having a wildlife corridor here along with the open space in this historic area of town.”

Now that the council has offered a favorable recommendation, the PZC will handle the recommendation as an 8-24 referral, a state statute for municipal improvements—including the acquisition of municipal land—to ensure that a purchase of land is consistent with the plan of conservation and development (POCD).

The POCD is updated every 10 years. The last one was done in 2016.

“The PZC will now review this and make sure it is consistent with the POCD, which I have no doubts that it is,” said Chaplinsky. “Then, after that, it will come back to the council for final approval, and then be executed.”

The town has approximately 700 acres of open space. Chaplinsky said that, between the acreage of open space, in addition to around 300 acres of inventory in the Southington land trust, and around 1,500 acres of inventory in the water department, “There’s a nice, healthy area of preserved land in our town.”

“We heard residents loud and clear that they want the town to preserve open space,” said Chaplinsky. “People have a right to develop. The only way to stop development is to purchase the land. Where we can balance it, we will work aggressively.”

Chaplinsky said this is “only the beginning,” and there are “more irons in the fire” that the committee is looking to purchase this year.

“We are actively seeking landowners that are willing to partner and work with the town on open space acquisition deals,” he said. “Anyone interested can contact me at pchaplinsky@southington.org or reach out to the town manager.”

In 2018, residents approved a referendum to provide $2 million towards purchases of open space in the town. Assistant town planner Dave Lavalle said there is roughly $1.7 million remaining in the account.

“Expanding open space in town helps foster the balance of natural resources, wildlife, and development through preserving open space to protect and maintain the scenic, recreational, and cultural landscape for the overall enrichment of the community,” said Lavalle.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at News@SouthingtonObserver.com.

For more information about the properties, click here: GIS – 1205 Marion Ave and 136 School St

Property information courtesy of Southington’s geographic information system (GIS)