‘They Are Trying To Run Roughshod Over The Process’: Aquarion’s Neighbors Issue Cease-and-Desist on Land Sale


Though it aims to subdivide and sell a large piece of untouched land tucked away behind Indian Waters Drive, the water company has no legal way to establish access from that private road and neighbors have issued a cease-and-desist order, one of them told New Canaan’s legislative body last week.

Looking at the Noroton River from a bridge on Indian Waters Lane. Credit: Michael Dinan

Looking at the Noroton River from a bridge on Indian Waters Lane. Credit: Michael Dinan

Residents of Indian Waters Drive “are urgently trying to keep this as open land for the town” and Aquarion has “ignored us,” Peter Bergen told members of the Town Council during their regular meeting, held Wednesday at Town Hall.

“We are prepared to work with the town, to work with the New Canaan Land Trust to try to keep this land open. I think this land is currently assessed at about $13,000 an acre that they are trying to sell for about $1.5 million an acre. So I am urging the town to keep considering this issue, to slow down the process, especially given the legal issues that are ongoing, where we do not believe for a second that they have access at all and they are trying to run roughshod over the process.”

He spoke during a public comments section at the top of the Town Council meeting.

His comments come as Aquarion proposes the sale and eventual development of a 19-acre wooded parcel that straddles the Noroton River and is bordered by the points of three dead-ending roads—Indian Waters Drive, Welles Lane and Thurton Drive. Officials with the water company say they have entered an agreement with one neighbor who wants to purchase 8.3 acres contiguous to his or her property, and will pursue a 2-lot subdivision of the roughly 10 remaining acres, with frontage on Indian Waters Drive.

They also come as the New Canaan Conservation Commission—the group charged with “defining the Town’s open space and to evaluate those lands for their proper and potential use”—prepares to study the Aquarion property in question and make a recommendation to the Town Council.

During the same meeting, the commission supplied an update on its work to the legislative body, during which its chairman, Cam Hutchins, said one priority is “to conserve what we have been blessed with.”

“Over the past 60 years or so, a major force in New Canaan has been fueled by developers and real estate interests—after all, that is their business, that’s what they do, and it’s perfectly legal,” Hutchins said.

“But it is reshaping our town, maybe not always for the worse, but definitely not always for the better. As land in our town becomes more valuable for developers, it also becomes more precious for all of us. What can we do, in our time, to make sure we aren’t carelessly giving away the store for future generations of New Canaanites? As a Town, we need to stop rolling over. We need to start pressing an equally vital and valid point of view. And it’s a point of view that the majority of New Canaanites have supported again and again over time. As a town, we need to be better organized to represent all of our citizens, to conserve, to the very best of our ability, the open space so many New Canaanites see as a vital part of our community.”

Conservation commissioner Heather Lauver said that the group is seeking to be “involved in the long-term planning” in New Canaan.

“I think the most difficult part is to have your blinders on and only be able to look this far and not really have the cross-communications,” Lauver said.

Looking, for example, “at some of the properties looking to be sold by Aquarion, and not having a real sense of the hot spots around the town of what migratory paths or wetlands paths we really should be red-flagging for the town,” she said.

Any land sale undertaken by Aquarion requires approval from the state agency that oversees utilities in Connecticut, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority. Officials with Aquarion have said they expect no response before August.

Another resident of Indian Waters Drive, Bill Pike, urged town officials to be come involved proactively in the Aquarion land issue.

“This open land is beautiful land on the road and my objective is simply to get some process to get this land into the Land Trust,” Pike said. “We realize that we have to find that money somewhere and that we are not asking the town to support that but we would like the influence of the town to try and convince Aquarion that best use of land to sell it to the Land Trust.”

One thought on “‘They Are Trying To Run Roughshod Over The Process’: Aquarion’s Neighbors Issue Cease-and-Desist on Land Sale

  1. Good luck!

    I’ve been trying to deal with development like this in a neighboring town for 15 years and no matter how much it hurts the town, runs counter to zoning laws, or is blatantly illegal, the developers win every time. They simply have more money to spend fighting for what they want and can steam roller any process.

    Here, you’ve sold your water company to an Australian privatization firm who stands to make $20 million in profit, which they knew when they bought the water company. They know that “the cost of doing business” is to fight small towns’ citizens to make that profit. They know that a small town won’t spend $1 million fighting the inevitable, and they know spending $1 million is still a good deal for them That’s their business model. Welcome to the Neoliberal world.

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