The Town Council unanimously tabled a vote to approve conceptual master plans for two farming properties, Pleasant View Farm at 427 Pleasant St. and Grosky Farm at 752 Berlin St., presented by Milone & MacBroom and the farm heritage committee.
The town has ownership of both historic properties, and both had seen deterioration over the years. At one time, Pleasant View Farm included horse stables, a residential home and barns, but the buildings were determined by professionals to be unsafe and were demolished and removed from the site.
At the Grosky farm, a small farm stand building was also removed and reconstructed through volunteer efforts. The Grosky residence was demolished when the town acquired the property, and the barn was determined to be in poor conditions. Renovations would be too costly and would outweigh the cost of removal and replacement, according to town staff.
“The town had been approached by residents with ideas for utilizing the properties, and the committee recognized that developing a master plan for the sites would best serve community interest in the two sites,” states the master plan documents. “Preservation of open space and an intelligent, sustainable management of the natural resources for both properties are paramount to the town.”
Councilor Mike Riccio (R) said the price of the work outlined in the conceptual plans is too high.
“This puts a burden that I wasn’t anticipating on the taxpayers,” said Riccio. “Yes, as owners of the properties, we would have to maintain them, but not to the tune of $2.4 million just to get them up and running.”
He suggested working with local farmers and utilizing a public-private partnership to keep the costs down. Council chair Chris Palmieri, also a member of the farm heritage committee, said there was a resident who came forward and showed interest of bringing her cow to the Grosky farm, but there is no running water or electricity.
“These are easy solutions to fix for pretty cheap. It doesn’t make sense to me,” said Riccio. He then took on the task of pursuing getting water and power to the barn.
Although Palmieri said the vote was only on the conceptual plans, not the funds, councilors Tom Lombardi (R), Victoria Triano (R) and Dawn Miceli (D) were reluctant to approve the conceptual plans knowing there was no money in the current budget to do the work.
“I fear that five or 10 years from now, somebody’s going to say, ‘Well, the 2019 council approved it,’ and they’re going to use that as a tool to move along the plans,” said Lombardi. He also questioned if it was the council’s role to manage farmlands in town. “I have a hard time looking taxpayers in the eyes and saying, ‘We didn’t fund your education budget, but it’s possible at some point that we will spend $2 million on a farming operation.’”
Triano said though there is no money for the projects this year, it was important to note that future councils would be able to make changes to the master plans if needed.
Kelly Morrissey (D) said regardless of the funds, the council should approve the conceptual plans so that future councils have a plan to look at and ideas to discuss.
Plans for Pleasant View farm include a new 4,000 square foot barn, a resource center, fenced paddock, defined farm field and school field plots with tractor and equipment access, soil amendment and fertility improvements, teaching trellises and storage facilities, improved walkway linkage to DePaolo Middle School, new paved parking area, community gardens framed by stone walls, a teaching pavilion and outdoor terrace, landscaping and signage improvements.
Plans for Grosky farm include maintaining the hayfield operations with limited clearing of woodland edges, removal of the barn and renovation of the site as fenced paddock, renovation of the existing paddock, consideration of bee keeping, maintenance of the sugar maple grove, winter use of the hayfield as a community sledding hill, a 1,100 foot linear trail, tree and vegetation management plan for removal of invasive species, and new fencing and entry landscaping.
The vote was tabled and will re-appear on the agenda at a later, undetermined date.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at SRoy@SouthingtonObserver.com.