By TAYLOR HARTZ
Last November, Southington residents showed their support for $2 million in spending for open space property and development in Southington.
A majority of residents voted “yes” on a referendum item that appropriated the funding for costs related to the acquisition of open space in the last election—including the costs of easements, interests, rights, and development rights.
At a Jan. 11 meeting of the Town Council, councilors voted 6-2 in support of spending $990,000 of this funding to purchase the development rights for the Hawk’s Landing Country Club property.
The purchase of these development rights will allow the council to prevent a 25-property lot subdivision on the land—or any development that is not an extension of the golf course or banquet facility.
The town purchased development rights for all 18-holes of the golf course for the price of a 9-hole course.
Democratic councilors John Barry and Christopher Palmieri voted against the spending, and Councilor Dawn Miceli (D) abstained from the vote.
Councilor Palmieri said that he felt a public hearing on the issue would be appropriate, but the Planning and Zoning Commission had already approved the purchase under an 8-24 referral, a state statute pertaining to municipal improvements that allows a municipality to bypass the requirement for a public hearing.
Councilor Barry questioned what exactly taxpayers were purchasing for nearly $1 million, and expressed concern that there were no limitations on the expansion of the property.
“This property will remain private, unlike other open space land that allows public access,” said Barry in a statement.
Town Manager Garry Brumback said the definition of open space is “nebulous,” and that by remaining a location for recreation, the development rights qualify as a purchase of open space.
He added that “pertinent structures”—structures that support the activity of the open space—are allowed on land that is considered open space.
“Open space can be passive or active recreation,” said Brumback, “Open space is designed to preserve land from more intense development.”
While the Hawk’s Landing property will remain in use as a private golf course, Brumback explained that by purchasing the development rights, the expansion of the property as anything other than a golf course or banquet facility is prohibited.
Hawk’s Landing may expand the existing uses of the property, an 18-hole golf course and banquet facility, but may not change or add any uses of the property. Any development that require permits or easements will still need to go through the PZC approval process.
“They can either continue what they’re doing, or it becomes open space,” said Brumback. “They cannot develop it into anything other than what it already is.”