Letter: Grace Farms a Sanctuary for Natural Habitat, Wildlife

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The town of New Canaan received a major gift of open space when the Grace Farms Foundation acquired Windsome Farms in 2008 and choose to develop less than 5 percent of the now 80-acre parcel.

A 2003 Open Space Committee commissioned by then-First Selectman Judy Neville and led by Selectman Paul Giusti had identified these rolling hills as a “top” candidate for town purchase along with the Irwin Estate. The town subsequently acquired Irwin for a total of $19 million, and today hundreds of town citizens and youth enjoy Irwin Park daily.

Not only did our town not have to acquire the Windsome Farms parcel at a taxpayer cost in excess of $20 million, we avoided the projected park maintenance costs as well. Today, nature is one of five Grace Farms’ initiatives. With a full-time nature initiatives director leading educational and exploratory efforts, the foundation has developed a wide range of passive recreation programs for our citizens and youth. Equally important, Grace Farms has protected wildlife habitat on nearly 77 acres which will be retained in perpetuity as open meadows, woods, wetlands and ponds. And The River building itself is an architectural celebration of the topography and natural beauty of New Canaan.

As a town citizen and open space advocate, I believe we have been blessed with this gift of open space and natural beauty that can be shared with our children today and generations to come. I sincerely hope the near neighbors whose concerns may eventually be addressed consider these greater benefits of Grace Farms.

Chris Schipper, Sleepy Hollow Road

2 thoughts on “Letter: Grace Farms a Sanctuary for Natural Habitat, Wildlife

  1. Completely agree with Chris on this Grace Farms issue. Have taken my 7 year old grandson there any number of times to enjoy the peacefulness of a walk … catch a few fish (and release them) … and an added benefit of not having to worry about be mugged by a dog or stepping in the crap that the owner did not pick up.

  2. As an abutting neighbor, we too were hoping that Grace Farms Foundation would officially designate the residual undeveloped 77 acres as dedicated open space for the town’s benefit. Regrettably, in their new application the Foundation did not designate any additional acreage as open space which could be added to New Canaan’s official open space inventory. Rather, the Foundation has plans to add more parking as per the application as well as convert and expand the use of a house on Puddin Hill into an office complex for their staff of 60 people.

    The only designated open space presently at Grace Farms is an unbuildable 4 acre plot in wetlands that was mandated by P&Z in conjunction with P&Z’s 2008 approval of an amendment to the existing special permit. To be clear, without an official designation, there are no restrictions on an owner’s future development of existing open space.

    Grace Farms Foundation should commit in writing and not marketing to preserving the undeveloped land at Grace Farms as open space in perpetuity for the community’s benefit and make it official.

    Should you wish to learn more about the Grace Farms application, the portal at http://www.365lukeswoodroad.com is a good starting point.

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