Steve Rocco Says Haddam Land Swap Deal Still Possible

The Riverhouse banquet facility partner urged a legislative committee on Monday not to repeal the amendment that allows the state to trade away 17.4 acres near the Connecticut River in Tylerville.


Though Steve Rocco and his partners nearly a year ago backed out of a controversial proposal to swap 87 acres of forestland in Higganum for 17.4 acres near the Connecticut River in Tylerville, Rocco says the deal could still be revived.

In testimony Monday before the legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee Rocco said he and his partners, who run the Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station, have not yet decided whether to give up on their plan take the 17.4 acres that abut their banquet facility on Bridge Street.

And, as he watches weeds grow on a property he says the state is not maintaining, “for that reason alone, it is still imperative to pursue this.” He says he and his partners also are still taking into consideration their long-term business plans and the nuances of the local economy.

“I do not want to see this arbitrarily repealed,” he said.

Rocco’s testimony came during a public hearing before the committee on a bill that would strip from the legislature’s annual conveyance bill an amendment to swap the Riverview land in Tylerville for 87 acres of forest that Rocco and his partners own in Higganum.

The partners wanted to add the 17.4 acres in Tylerville to their banquet facility property for a mixed use development near the river that would expand on and complement their banquet hall business.

The swap, which was backed by former state Sen. Eileen Daily about two years ago and later signed into law by Gov. Dannel Malloy, drew the ire of local residents who formed a grassroots group that opposed it. The fight also drew the attention and support of environmental and conservation groups from around the state.

While the state approved the plan, Rocco and his partners at Riverhouse abruptly abandoned the proposal in April of 2012 when appraisals for the two properties showed that the state-owned land was much more valuable than the forest land the developers were offering in trade.

Under state law, that disparity would have required the developers to either offer additional land to make the trade equal, or pay the state the difference in value.

In testimony before the committee Melissa Schlag, who spearheaded opposition to the land swap, urged the panel to repeal the amendment because it would “finally put to rest a very bad policy that dates back to 2009.”

P. Tom Sylvester March 27, 2013 at 11:30 AM
"Arbitrarily repealed"? really, Rocco! The people have spoken. Give it up.
Keep the river front for all of us March 27, 2013 at 12:10 PM
Mr. Rocco, those WEEDS must be horrible !!!!!!!!!!! Maybe they will help explain the disparity in the appraisals of the property.
Jennifer Senechal Rau March 27, 2013 at 12:28 PM
Mr. Rocco needs to pound sand!
Sue Costa March 27, 2013 at 01:31 PM
I feel ill that this issue has resurfaced and the bantering has once again restarted...enough is enough!
Melissa Schlag March 27, 2013 at 02:11 PM
The committee did not take to Mr. Rocco kindly. The Haddam Bulletin was the only media at the Capitol late into the evening to report on this firsthand, here is a more detailed account of the proceedings: http://www.haddambulletin.com/ and for those who use Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Haddam-Bulletin/374950543936 And here is a link to the complete list of testimonies, at least 34 (growing) against the swap, with just one, Mr. Rocco, for it. http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/CommDocTmyBillAllComm.asp?bill=HB-06672&doc_year=2013
lorraine riess March 27, 2013 at 02:30 PM
Give it up Steve. The riverfront belongs to the community and was given to the community in perpetuity. What your group tried to do was underhanded. It was just about the money.
Raul de Brigard March 27, 2013 at 04:25 PM
This Mr. Rocco appeared at the hearing on his own. Unlike 2012, no letter was submitted by Haddam's First Selectman, and there has been no evidence of support from the town's Economic Development Commission, the Conservation Commission. or rumors of activity behind the scenes from certain interests across the river. However much could still happen between now and the time this bill is reported out of Committee, and we have yet to hear one way or the other from Senator Art Linares, the Republican successor to Eileen Daily.
Paul Ruimerman March 27, 2013 at 11:47 PM
Thanks Melissa, the Haddam Bulletin story is much more enlightening.
Serene Skeptic March 28, 2013 at 01:40 PM
Thank you Ms Schlag, the Haddam-Bulletin and the CT.gov links are indeed more enlightening. Please let us know if there is anything we, as the general public, can do to end this.
Tanja Moriarty April 01, 2013 at 12:11 PM
Excellent job, Haddam Bulletin! Once again, you went out of your way to watch Haddam's back and report thoroughly what was going on---not just bits and pieces. Thank you.


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