Esty on Land Swap: ‘Look to local officials’
Jun 16th, 2011 |
By Environmental Headlines -- CT environmental news |
By Aaron Goode — In what appear to be his first public comments about the Haddam land swap since the deal was approved, Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Dan Esty tweaked environmentalists last Thursday for focusing so much attention on the controversial proposal in which Connecticut would trade 17 acres of state-owned land along the Connecticut River to a real estate developer for 87.7 acres adjacent to the Cockaponset State Forest. Esty’s comments were made in a question-and-answer session after he delivered prepared remarks at the annual meeting of the Hamden Land Conservation Trust, where he was the guest speaker.
Esty called the land deal “not the most important environmental issue” and echoed the sentiment of many legislators that the environmental community had blown the issue out of proportion.
Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney was quoted last week in the Connecticut Mirror saying that ”some members of the environmental community have gone off the rails.” The Senate voted 31 to 5 to approve the deal in the closing hours of the legislative session; in the House it passed 90 to 58.
Citing his past service as a Planning & Zoning Commissioner in Cheshire, Esty said that, in general, state officials should defer on land use decisions to the wishes of local officials, especially in a case where from an environmental perspective the right answer on the land deal was unclear. The land swap was widely opposed by environmental organizations but strongly supported by Senator Eileen Daily and by most elected officials in Haddam, where both of the parcels of land are located.
Until the land swap controversy, Esty, a former EPA official and a Connecticut Fund for the Environment board member, had enjoyed almost unanimous approval from the environmental community. He said his only regret about the land swap was that he “took such a pummeling” over the issue.