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Previous Owner Wanted River Land Kept as Open Space

Riverhouse partners admit they didn't realize the previous owner's intent was to keep the 17 acres open to the public.

 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.”

Daria Thompson March 25, 2011 at 03:35 PM
This is utterly ridiculous!! My heart goes out to the original owner of this land, who thought that they were doing a good thing for the people of this State. Shame on you Eileen Daley!!! You have certainly lost my respect and my vote as a Democratic. I don’t know what’s up between you and Mr. Rocco, but stop being greedy bullies and move on to Plan B, C or D, whatever letter you are up to by now.
Laurie Alt March 25, 2011 at 05:22 PM
I must respectfully disagree with the developers and Senator Daily! There's a reason waterview land is more valued than interior forest. There is a reason why polluted land is not approved for hotels. And there is a reason why the State of Connecticut should keep its word, and not change midstream, when they purchase land for open space. All those reasons add up to a net gain for CT citizens, voters, and taxpayers. Please, Ct legislators, do what is best and honorable for the State of Connecticut: do not allow this swap to go through, EVER!
Curious March 25, 2011 at 05:30 PM
What part don't these developers and Ms Daily get. There are no negotiations with state - this is simply something that Daily has inserted into the conveyance bill for the third year in a row. This is not a negotiating process! If you look at Rocco's plans, he is using the parking lot of Eagle Landing State Park. The language in the deed for the 17 acres and for the riverfront property are the same - what is to prevent them from pursuing that next - once the precedent has been made. I just can't believe how arrogant and bold these people are. I certainly will never donate any land to the state if this goes through.
Gene Bartholomew March 25, 2011 at 09:14 PM
Because they are spoiled rotten brats, they want what they want and they will convince themselves of how righteous they are in their quest. The legality of it and what will happen to State Parks and Conserved lands current and future do not matter, only they matter. So Eileen, still waiting for documents that prove your statements that this type of conveyance happnes all the time,......hmmm hmm hmmm..........see, this is what I call a no show, a factless baseless claim made to gain support of an idea or to get people to allow you to do what you want to do, legal or not.
Curious March 25, 2011 at 09:14 PM
The argument, Ms. Daily is not whether the land is polluted or not - in fact the Riverhouse has polluted water and yes, they monior their filters (a little like the fox watching the hen house) - the argument is trading land that was bought with our money for open space and trading it to a private entity for their own personal gain. I have a real problem with that!
Myra Aronow March 26, 2011 at 11:55 AM
I don't know why the state doesn't just say no. They have about other far less controversial proposed land swaps- or can anything be gotten through the legislature even if the department in charge does not agree to it?
Ed Gubbins March 26, 2011 at 10:17 PM
This reminds me of a land deal the government of New London made a while back at Fort Trumbull..... Just tryintg to sidestep eminent domain... taking from the people for some private enterprise..... that should never happen... it was a bad precedent then, and this is a terrible precedent to try to set now.... Eleen Daily... I used to relly like you... What happened to you? Another reason we need term limits...
Gene Bartholomew March 27, 2011 at 01:37 PM
Ed, that actually is quite the story, I worked at Pfizer as a subcontractor at the time, most of it never hit the press, the real story is Pfizer wined/dined Rowland,the 300-400mil Rowland said he invested in New London, that was it, then WE the taxpayers bought the scrapyard from Calimaris and remediated it, this left Pfizer with only having to build the buildings, but I think we also chipped in, ( but it was still so polluted the buildings had to have a vent system from under the foundation). Then WE rebuilt the Fort so Pfizer employees could have a nice walking path, then State residents complained that there was no parking at the new "State Park" or was it a Pfizer park???, so the State was going to take those peoples homes for a parking lot, that is when the ^&* hit the fan and the war started between the home owners. The homeowners won that battle, then Pfizer wanted a hotel/conference center and instead of taking the area on the other side of the Fort and these homes where there sat many empty commercial buildings and tons of blight, they attacked these people and right to the SC, where the right wing, pro business wacko SC claimed it was, eminent domain, a huge travesty of injustice because this was not eminent domain, this would only help Pfizer, NOT all of the people, which is what eminent domain is about, train tracks, highways, things that ALL of the people would benefit from.
Gene Bartholomew March 27, 2011 at 01:44 PM
Then to top it all off, Pfizer turns around and say "thanks for a few billion over the years, we're moving to Cambridge?????" And still we give these large corporations tons of our money either through no payback loans or "tax forgiveness" and no one makes them tow the line, Rowland must have given away billions and now we are about 3billion in the hole that Malloy is trying to fill by taking from us and State Workers again, this money could easily be found just by "trimming" not cutting, the corporate welfare system. I asked Malloy about that the other day on NPR's Where We Live, he poopoo'd it. I agree that the State is over run with managers and that needs to be adressed but Malloy is adding taxes to the taxes that Weicker already added, taxes that at one point gave this State so much money no one notice Rowlands rip offs out the back door, and our new Lt Gov Nancy Wyman WAS SUPPOSED TO BE COUNTING OUR MONEY!

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