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Ferry Property for the Right Price; Hearing to Disband Gurski Commission

Selectmen will hold executive session on whether to purchase the Ferry property and public hearing on whether to dissolve the Gurski Commission.

The Board of Selectmen (BOS) moved Monday night to meet in executive session to discuss the possible purchase of 21 acres on Obtuse Road South owned by the Ferry family. While all three members of the board said they were in favor of conservation, there were questions about whether this is the right time to make preservation purchases and what price would make the deal too good to pass up.

Under the terms of the current proposal, the town would be purchasing full rights to over 21 acres of the Ferry Farm, while 5.5 acres of the property — two homes, a barn and some farmland — would remain in the Ferry family.

The town had entered into discussions to purchase the development rights for the property in 2003, according to Conservation Commission Chairman Alice Dew, which would have maintained ownership of the deed with the Ferry’s but restricted the use of the property to agriculture.

The current plan would be to purchase the property in full and use it for “passive recreation,” Dew said, which she described as “walking, biking, picnicking, anything that doesn’t involve motorized vehicles.” However, “If the town purchases this, depending on how it’s worded in the deed, it can be used by the town for whatever they choose.”

Two members of the public attended Monday’s BOS meeting to speak against the proposal.

Heather Creagh () said she was concerned about conserving more acreage in Brookfield and saw little value in this particular property.

Purchasing property for conservation as a town “tramples on everyone’s right to pursue the ownership of property,” she said, as once a municipality has bought a property it rarely ever returns to private ownership.

“Nor is it valuable for the town’s open space,” she added, as the terrain is “extremely rocky and walking is difficult” and ”the whole property can be walked in 15 minutes — it’s not good for hiking.”

Adjoining property owner Bob Zinser agreed with Creagh, stating that “normally I would be in favor of open space, but I have to oppose this. Why this piece of property and why now?”

“We have two pieces of open space land at that end of town,” he said, referring to Burr Farm and Happy Landings. “It’s not available to everyone in town, it’s essentially on the Newtown line… I want to go on record, even though I live in that area, as opposing this purchase.”

“I, for one, would wonder what the community of Brookfield would look like if we erased those 1,000 open acres and allowed them to be developed,” First Selectman Bill Davidson said, referring to the 1,320 acres preserved in Brookfield through the town, private land trusts, developers and homeowners associations, “It wouldn’t be the Brookfield we know today.”

Davidson did admit, however, “There is an argument of semantics about how much open space is too much open space,” and asked his fellow selectmen if they thought it was “the highest priority for spending taxpayer’s money today?”

“We should take advantage of any opportunity we can to expand — to a point and we’re not at that point — to expand our open space,” Selectman Howard Lasser said. “But I’m not sure about the timing and I’m not sure about the price,” he added, suggesting that the BOS meet in executive session to talk about price.

The newest BOS member, Selectman George Walker, said he is a “firm believer in open space and this community needs open space,” however he walked the property last week and said it “really didn’t jump out at me as some extraordinary piece of property.”

“I’m not sure this is the right piece to be spending money on at this particular time,” Walker said. “I’m not sure there’s a compelling reason — other than just because it’s there — that we jump out and grab it.”

“To me it’s about pricing,” Lasser said, since for the right price it may be worth considering.

“To take the extremes,” Davidson offered, “We wouldn’t pay $2.5 million for this property, but we might be real eager at $10,000.”

If the BOS decides to move forward at a later date, the purchase would also have to be approved by the Board of Finance (BOF) and a town vote, either at a town meeting or referendum, depending on the final price.

Public Hearing on Gurski Homestead Commission

In the wake of , the BOS voted unanimously to schedule a public hearing on January 3 at 7 p.m. (before their January board meeting) to consider dissolving the Gurski Homestead Commission and reorganizing it under the oversight of the Conservation Commission.

“It’s had an interesting history and it’s certainly over the last several years had some difficulties,” Davidson said of the property Monday, however due to matching grants through the state Commission on Culture and Tourism (CCT), if the required maintenance is not done the state will perform the work and bill the town.

“Brookfield is full of pretty independent people,” he said, “We like doing our own thing, so we thought, ‘let’s buy ourselves out of it,’ but the state’s not interested in getting their money back.”

Under the first selectman’s proposal, the Gurski Commission would be disbanded as a formal town commission and placed under the Conservation Commission. One member of Conservation would be appointed to oversee operations at the property and would conscript some of the more experienced Gurski Commission members to help with management.

Davidson said that the Gurski Commission members have been made aware of this potential change and Chairman Judy Heise is “in concert and supports this approach.”

“We’re not doing well with the Gurski Homestead right now,” he said. “It’s wanting for resources and I do believe it’s wanting for stronger management and I do believe the Conservation Commission can do that.”

michael delvalle December 06, 2011 at 06:30 PM
Is there any open space in Brookfield for the dedicated use of motorized vehicles ? If not, how about the Ferry property. Michael Delvalle.
Chris Scott December 06, 2011 at 07:15 PM
I agree with Michael, Brookfield could benefit from a non water area that was friendly to ATV's or other forms of non-passive recreation. The suitability of this property would need to be reviewed as well as the wishes of surrounding residents but what about a dog and motorsport friendly parcel? A segment of residents us underserved in the current forms of available land.
Mark December 07, 2011 at 01:18 AM
The terrain would actually be excellent for that type of endeavor but I am not sure what the Conservation Committee or other neighbors would say about that. The Modzelewski kids used the land at will for ATVing in the past and when I was a boy my brother had an old Volkswagen they used to ride around in. There is a stocked pond on the property with decent fishing, and the wildlife is amazing. It is not uncommon to see hawks, foxes, or an army of deer (big surprise there). Down the road there is an area marked as a bird sanctuary which has no real trees. The birds are here - every kind you can imagine ~ orioles, bluejays, hummingbirds, cardinals, bluebirds to name a very few. On rainy days there are more than 50 birds inside our garage trying to stay dry. The land forms a valley that echos, and you can't have a private conversation on one end of the valley without it being carried to your neighbor's ears. Several of Selectman Walker's comments about the land were inaccurate. He made claims the land is unsuitable for much building, yet we've received offers from developers planning to build as many as eight homes. He claims that it is too steep a grade for a road, yet my Honda Civic can reach most areas of the farm. He made these assertion based on 'walking the land last week' yet we have never seen him here or met him. Any residents would like to see the land for themselves can e-mail me at mferry72@gmail.com and make arrangements to walk it with me. Mark J Ferry
Mary Jane Copp December 07, 2011 at 04:19 AM
Any property taken off the tax roll is not going to help the town. Eventually we have to pay all the union workers retirement in Brookfield.
Steven DeVaux December 07, 2011 at 10:40 AM
Will public deer hunting to eliminate the tick infestation be permitted for tax paying gun owners?
Bob McGarrah December 07, 2011 at 11:41 AM
Observation on Mr. Ferry's comments -Agree- great to have an " off road" recreation area, but would you want it in a place that echos? Quote Mr. Ferry "The land forms a valley that echos, and you can't have a private conversation on one end of the valley without it being carried to your neighbor's ears." May want to rethink that one.
BobCat December 07, 2011 at 03:00 PM
I am one of the surrounding residents. The wooded portion of the Ferry property borders on mine. I would strongly resist anything but passive usage as would all of my neighbors as well as people on South Obtuse Road.
BobCat December 07, 2011 at 03:02 PM
There are already hunters back there bow hunting just about every year.
BobCat December 07, 2011 at 03:03 PM
Mark - I am your neighbor. My son fishes the pond regularly. I don't want ATVs behind my house.
Donald N December 07, 2011 at 04:36 PM
I am a surrounding resident as well and the thought of turing this parcel into a public ATV area is not practical. It is a small parcel (15 acres after the Ferry's would retain 5.5 acres) completely enclosed by homes, and much of it is a marshy valley that serves as a natural/water recharge area. The land is abundant with wildlife: birds including Ducks, Geese, Heron, songbirds; foxes; deer; coyotes; and is a nesting area for turtles in the winter which migrate through my property in the spring and fall. I could see whay the town would want to conserve this property, and I also think conservative private development which would respect our zoning laws and nature would be reasonable; but not an ATV racetrack.
BobCat December 07, 2011 at 04:46 PM
Mark - it's not the same parcel of land you guys used to ride around on. Much of the land you used then is now developed. I have paths on my property that used to be ATV trails. Active use like that is no longer practical since the usable land is much smaller now then it was then.
Aaron Boyd (Editor) December 07, 2011 at 04:54 PM
Donald, just a minor clarification: the property is just under 27 acres, 5.5 of which would remain with the Ferry's and 21 acres that would be purchased by the town under the current proposal.
Mark December 07, 2011 at 07:00 PM
Hey Gary, I've met your son down there before. I honestly don't want ATV's there either, I was more commenting about the terrain on the top part of the hill on our property. Those old ATV trails where you are was never ours. As I said before, the echoes there are considerable. We can hear the music coming from your house, so ATVs would represent considerable noise.
Mark December 07, 2011 at 07:27 PM
I would like to make one very important point. Several residents against the purchase have commented that they have "walked the land." But we have neither seen any of those residents here nor have have any of them asked permission to do so. Nobody should be entering the property unless they have the permission of my family. It is private property. There are no trespassing signs posted. It is hunting season. There is no reason to invade my family's privacy, trespass on our land and endanger yourselves or scare members of my family by breaking the law, climbing a fence, etc. E-mail me and I will make time for any residents who wish to see the property to do so. Furthermore, the portion of the property being offered for sales is 22.5 acres (approximately.) The entire property is slightly over 28 acres.
Rob Gianazza December 07, 2011 at 07:49 PM
I'd like a clarification on why the Town of Brookfield wants to purchase a property to take off the tax rolls. It is my understanding that this land is to remain as passive land, which means it is just additional land owned by the town. It cannot be used for sports fields and the neighbors seem opposed to any type of off-road motorized sports. So what is the benefit of the town owning this land?
Mark December 07, 2011 at 08:13 PM
I believe that the Conservation Committee intended sports fields to be an option. At the meeting on Monday Alice Dew stated that any deed would leave open those options. My understanding is that in some town long-term plan their hope was to have a "Green Belt" which would allow a series of trails that ran across town. Apparently Happy Landings comes in off of one of the roads off of Tower and there was a desire to use our property to link it to the Burr Farm. One continual trail.
Steven DeVaux December 08, 2011 at 02:30 AM
Donald N, All the more reason for a good town hunting preserve for gun hunters in the Brookfield Sportsmen's club.
Steven DeVaux June 05, 2012 at 12:33 AM
They could always purchase it so the WCPA can build a sewage treatment plant there.

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