To the Editor:
For the last several years, Sen. Eileen Daily, D-Westbrook, has repeatedly inserted into pending bills a proposal to enter into a land swap benefiting Steve Rocco and his Riverhouse. This effort could deprive the public of their approval rights in relation to the transfer of 17 acres of public recreational land located above Eagle Landing State Park with a view of the Swing Bridge and Goodspeed Theater.
This proposal was so controversial that the Goodspeed pulled out of its early support.
The aroma of this deal was sufficient that former State Rep. James Spallone alerted the legislature to its presence shortly before the bill which contained the proposal came to the floor. The Legislature pulled the bill without comment.
The former language would have bypassed both the Department of Environmental Protection and the Connecticut River Gateway Commission from their reviews.
In supporting her proposal, Ms. Daily posits that a new DEP commissioner may choose to bypass the Legislature and execute the transfer administratively.
Challenged by the Gateway Commission last week, Ms. Daily defended her decision to push forward with the statement that the language was merely “placeholder” language and could be amended during the hearing. This did not satisfy the commissioners, who said that they oppose the swap because land given to the state for conservation purposes should not be later sold.
I think that we all recall Speaker Pelosi stating that we will all have time to review the Obama administration’s health plan “after it is passed.”
While I am pleased that this time the bill is public, I am very concerned that it may be marked up without the required governmental reviews and public comment.
The 87 acres that would be swapped for this land is a parcel that was part of a proposed real estate development. In value, it may be comparable to the 17 acres being swapped. River overlooks perfectly suited for public vistas and recreation are rapidly being eaten up by development.
On the other hand, the proposal offers an opportunity for a potentially significant addition to commercial development in the Tylerville section of Haddam.
Finding a compromise in the public and private interest will require the same sort of leadership that First Selectman DeStefano maintained as he worked through the thorny issue of the transfer station.
Sen. Daily would be well-advised to revisit this issue in concert with the elected officials of Haddam and the Gateway Commission to ensure a transparent transaction is undertaken before entering a public forum on the proposal. Only then would legislation be ripe for the Legislative action.
There is a process that must be followed in this proposal. Even state senators must remember for whom they work. The people must have their say on the disposition of their public lands.
Neil Nichols, Essex