Minutes after the news hit last night that the Haddam land swap deal was officially dead, Melissa Schlag Proulx, one of the leading opponents of the deal, was already celebrating with friends and supporters.
A little while later she sent out a formal statement to her larger group of backers, which includes residents in Haddam and East Haddam, as well as environmental groups across the state, trumpeting the deal's demise.
“It is the culmination of so many efforts that led us to this result,” she said in that statement. “Preservation, perseverance and principle were always the three components of the fight to keep our land. Haddam's future is now back in the hands of Haddam residents where it belongs, not just a single developer or legislator.”
The proposal to swap 17.4 acres of state land near the Connecticut River in Tylerville for 87 acres in Higganum, and to allow private development on the state land, became a highly charged topic last year that swept through Haddam, the state and even got international press.
But the deal died yesterday when lawyers for the developers notified the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection that they “will not be pursuing the transaction” due to a large discrepancy in the market values of the properties involved.
Opponents of the land deal weighed in today on their victory, saying they remain concerned about what the future may hold for the river view property in Tylerville.
“While I applaud the short term outcome, I fear long term damage has been done to the State's reputation as stewards of land deeded for open space,” said Pete Govert, VP of the East Haddam Land Trust and former East Haddam Selectman.
Sharon Botelle, who has been a driving force behind stop the swap efforts said, "I am still in shock. I have been working on this since 2009 - I think we should all remember what standing up and speaking the truth can accomplish. And my favorite quote 'Never, never, never give up' (Winston Churchill). We are hoping that we can legislation passed that will prevent this from happening again."
The original proposal would have traded the state-owned 17.4 acres of land in Tylerville to Riverhouse Properties in exchange for 87 acres of forest land that abut the Cockaponset State Forest in Higganum. The developers, who own the Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station, wanted the 17.4 acres for retail development that would complement their banquet facility.