The previous owner of the 17 acres at the center of a controversial land swap proposal in Haddam wanted the property kept as open space or a public park when the state bought it several years ago.
The developer that wants the land, Riverhouse Properties, now acknowledges that it publicly and mistakenly misrepresented the seller’s intentions for the land during recent discussions about what should become of the property.
“Riverhouse Properties has regrettably communicated to the public our belief that the seller requested no restrictions be placed on the property,” the developer said in a press release. “In the interests of resolving that question, at our request, our representative reached out to the seller and asked him directly. The owner of the two companies, which sold the land, Mr. Charles Robertson, reported to us that yes, it was his intention for the land to be put into open space. We want to be open about that and make it known publicly. “
The seller’s intent about the land, located in Tylerville village, has become part of the widening debate surrounding Riverhouse’s proposal to swap the land for 87 acres the company owns near the Cockaponset State Forest across town in the Higganum section.
The Riverhouse partners have contradicted statements made by opponents of the land swap. The opponents insist the property was supposed to be kept as open space or a state park. The land sits between the state’s Eagle Landing park in Haddam and the Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station, a banquet facility owned by the Riverhouse partners.
State Sen. Eileen Daily, D-Westbrook backs swapping the 17 acres for the Higganum land and has questioned why local residents oppose the deal. She has argued, in part, that the land is polluted and was forced on the state when it bought other riverfront properties nearby from the same seller.
Opponents have argued that allowing a developer control of the land would set a poor precedent and could dampen the future donation or sales of open space to the state.
This is the third year in a row Daily has sought to get a bill passed allowing the land swap. Two other attempts failed. Daily has said allowing Riverhouse to develop the land – one possible use would be for a hotel – would help boost economic development in the area.
But the former owner of the land, in an interview this week with the Hartford Courant, denied that he forced the land on the state. Instead, he said, the property was considered a valuable asset and the state paid $5.9 million for it in 2003. It overlooks the Connecticut River and has views of the Goodspeed Opera House. You can read the newspaper’s story here.
The Riverhouse partners said in their press release that despite the previous owner’s intention for the land they are pursuing their proposal to swap their Higganum property for the Tylerville parcel.
“We believe the State would not have entered into negotiations with us to make an exchange if any restrictions prevented them from consummating a deal,” Riverhouse said in its release. “This exchange of properties will result in 70 acre net gain of land that is more useful to the DEP and citizens of the State of Connecticut. In addition, the development of the 17 acres of commercial land will result in hundreds of jobs and potentially millions of dollars of State and local tax revenues.”