They petitioned the governor, organized rallies targeting state officials, testified before the legislature, held numerous public meetings and even lead a protest march through a popular local farmer’s market. But what finally sunk the so-called “Haddam land swap” were not the efforts of opponents, but simply the almighty dollar.
In the end, the 17.4 acres near the Connecticut River that the state tried to swap away for 87 acres of forest land in Higganum just proved to be too expensive to make the deal equitable for the state. The developer who sought the land, which it wanted to develop commercially, backed out of the deal Tuesday after negotiations deadlocked over appraisals for the river view land showed the property was worth $1.3 million more than the Higganum land. State law required the swap land to be at least as much as, if not more valuable than, the state land.
Though the financial impasse, and not the efforts of opponents, is what finally sank the deal, the swap opponents this week still embraced the outcome as a vindication of their efforts, in part because it represented such a major turn of events in the saga.
Here’s a compilation of many of the twists and turns in the issue over the past year.
- Word of the land swap’s revival becomes public and opponents begin weighing in on the issue.
- Opponents detail the land swap’s political history.
- One of the development firm’s partners takes his case to the public.
- The seeds of opposition are sown.
- State Sen. Eileen Daily, D-Westbrook, and a lightening rod of criticism, holds a public meeting on the proposal, which she backed.
- Opponents launch their website.
- With a rallying cry of “Stop the Swap” the opponents hold a public forum.
- The developer starts its own website.
- A legislative committee approves the swap.
- Opponents hold a nature walk on the public land the state wants to swap.
- State Rep. Phil Miller, D-Essex, introduces legislation to stop the swap.
- Hundreds turn out for an anti-swap rally.
- Folks from outside the region start to take a position on the swap, most against it.
- But the land swap has backers as well.
- Opponents are stunned when Haddam’s assessor resets the valuation of the river land from more than $1 million to $300,540, after initially resetting it at just $120,000. The new valuation, opponents said, would make it easier for the swap to go through.
- The grassroots opposition is dealt a major blow when the legislature approves the swap.
- Eileen Daily, under siege for months for supporting the swap, speaks out.
- Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signs the land swap bill, seemingly sealing the deal.
- Still fighting the plan, Citizens for the Protection of Public Lands holds a rally against the swap.
- Opponents step up their plan by directly confronting the state’s environmental commissioner at a public event. They did it again about a month later.
- Etsy publicly comments on the swap.
- The opposition reaches its nadir when opponents hold a march on a popular public market, drawing the intervention of police and angering some local residents and politicians.
- Word leaks out that the state’s appraisals for the river land and the Higganum property are widely disparate.
- Opponents fail in their effort to get Haddam to hold a public hearing on the swap.
- The state and the developers negotiate to figure out how to make the swap work in light of the damning appraisals.
- The developer backs out of the deal, citing the state’s appraisals as being too high.