Friends in the NH Register

Environmental team to evaluate 3 sites

New Haven Register
Byline: Luther Turmelle

May 23, 2007—CHESHIRE — A team of environmental professionals will be in town Thursday to begin an evaluation of three town parcels that a local nonprofit group wants to use.

Members of the Connecticut Environmental Review Team will begin an assessment of the Jackman and Lassen farms and the Blauvelt property, which residents refer to collectively as Boulder Knoll.

The team is a Haddam-based, state-funded entity that draws on the environmental expertise of individuals from federal, state, regional and local agencies who assist municipalities in reviewing sites proposed for development or preservation.

Town Manager Michael Milone said the team’s work will prove invaluable as the Town Council tries to determine the best use for the three properties, which span about 150 acres near Boulder Road in Cheshire’s southeast corner.

“They will tell what species are on those properties and will do other types of environmental inventories,” Milone said.

“It allows us to know what we’re dealing with so that we don’t destroy some important portion of the environment out there.”

The council currently has two proposals before it for using the land.

One is a plan submitted by Kerry Deegan, a lieutenant with the Police Department, that involves growing three to five acres of sunflowers on part of the property.

Deegan, who rents a home from the town on one of three parcels, would sell the flowers with proceeds to go to the American Cancer Society.

Republican Councilman Tim White said he would support Deegan’s proposal when the council ultimately votes on how to use the properties.

A broader plan was submitted to the council last fall by the nonprofit group Friends of Boulder Knoll.

Kim Stoner, the group’s president, said her organization is proposing using some of the three parcels as a wildlife habitat.

But Friends of Boulder Knoll is proposing that about 90 acres north of Boulder Road be used for a community farm that would initially be paid for by the town.

The group’s plan called for hiring a farm manager and involved spending $540,000 over four years before the farm was expected to become self-sufficient.

Stoner said she hopes the environmental inventory that is being done will spur the council to act on the group’s proposal.

“I think it is an opportunity to get some good information about what to do with these three pieces of property,” she said. “The council has never really been able to make a decision on it.”

D e m o c r a t i c C o u n c i l m a n Michael Ecke, vice chairman of the governing body and chairman of its Finance Committee, said that while the proposal presented by Friends of Boulder Knoll is comprehensive, “given the town’s (financial) situation, I think it’s something that would be very difficult for the council to support.”

“It’s a lot of money, a lot of money,” Ecke said.

Stoner said members of the group are now looking into the availability of other financing sources so that the town wouldn’t have to take on the expense.

She said members of Friends of Boulder Knoll had hoped to participate in Thursday’s environmental inventory, but were told by town officials that they can’t because they have a proposal before the council.

“They said it would be a potential conflict of interest for us,” she said.

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