A local organization dedicated to the preservation of open space took a big step Tuesday toward acquiring a closely watched 6-acre parcel in Silvermine.
The Boards of Selectmen and Finance in their regular meetings both voted unanimously in favor of a $267,000 special appropriation for the New Canaan Land Trust—funds that are expected to help the organization complete the $1,070,000 purchase of the “Fowler” property. Owned by award-winning zoologist Jim Fowler, the parcel abuts a 41-acre property already owned by the Land Trust and, together, they will form the “Silvermine Fowler preserve.”
“This is something we need to do as a town,” Selectman Nick Williams said during a meeting held in Town Hall in the morning, moments before the group voted 3-0 in favor of the appropriation. “These opportunities do not come around that often so we need to capitalize.”
The finance board followed with a unanimous ‘Yes’ vote at its evening meeting. The Town Council is expected to take up the matter for a final vote at its Jan. 18 meeting.
Asked about the developments, Michael Johnson, executive director of the Land Trust, told NewCanaanite.com: “It is very encouraging to see the town move forward with support of this project, a project that has been widely backed by such a broad constituency across New Canaan. The Land Trust is thankful for the letters and contributions from the community and we look forward to the next steps in securing this property as preserved open space for all to enjoy.”
New Canaanites have voiced strong support for a town allocation to help the Land Trust purchase the land, which includes a pond and runs west off of Silvermine Road south of the Valley Road intersection. Proponents have crowded into Town Hall meeting rooms during public hearings on the property and submitted several letters to NewCanaanite.com in favor of a taxpayer appropriation.
The Land Trust has been in talks with the Fowlers for more than one year about the property and secured first right of refusal to close on the land by the end of next month. The total cost of acquiring the land and making it publicly available is about $1.3 million, according to officials with the Land Trust as well as the Connecticut Trust for Public Land, a national organization that has helped with fundraising privately and through grants. The figure includes $80,000 for ongoing maintenance of the property and $150,000 toward the Trust for Public Land. Of the approximately $1 million raised or pledged, more than $700,000 is coming from outside of New Canaan, in the form of a state grant ($535,000) as well as donations, according to the Land Trust.
The local organization first approached the town last month with a request for $365,000 and continued fundraising, bringing the amount needed to “cross the finish line” down to $320,00 and, finally—thanks in part to a $25,000 special grant from the New Canaan Community Foundation—to $267,000.