The proposed capital spending plan now with the Board of Finance includes $250,000 for land acquisition, a figure that represents five times current spending.
First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, a longtime proponent of creating and building up the Land Acquisition Fund, noted during a press briefing last week that Westport puts about $250,000 into its own similar fund “and they have $3.2 million” in it now.
“I would like to have more built up for land acquisition,” Moynihan said during the briefing, held Feb. 6 in his Town Hall office. “So I am in favor of that general direction.”
The $250,000 request for fiscal year 2021 appears under the Conservation Commission in the proposed capital spending plan that the Board of Selectmen recommend 3-0 last month. Finance board hearings start this week.
The fund itself is about three years old.
The Town Council during an unusually contentious meeting in 2017 voted 7-0 to create the Land Acquisition Fund—an idea that had been recommended as long ago as 2004—though it went unfunded until last budget season. In 2018, the selectmen recommended that $50,000 go into the fund but the money was cut. In 2019, the selectmen asked for the same amount and it was approved.
The basis for the fund’s creation emerged four years ago, when the town found itself unable to prevent the water company from selling to private parties an 18.7-acre wooded parcel on Indian Waters Drive. Months later, the Town Council approved a special appropriation of $267,000 to help the New Canaan Land Trust acquire the Fowler property on Silvermine Road.
Moynihan last year floated the idea of selling a town-owned parcel at Lapham and Talmadge Hill Roads and using the proceeds to help pay for capital work at Waveny House. Selectman Kit Devereaux pushed back, saying that if New Canaan sold the 6.25-acre property, the money should go into the Land Acquisition Fund. In the end it wasn’t sold.