Agreement Would Protect Darrow Land in East Lyme

May 18, 2011

The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit conservation organization, and the Town of East Lyme announced today that TPL has reached an agreement to purchase 301 acres known as the Darrow property for conservation, drinking water, and watershed protection. The land is adjacent to the town's Aquifer Protection Area, and its protection will help safeguard clean drinking water for East Lyme.

Paul Formica, the town's First Selectman, said, "I am pleased that the Town's longstanding partnership with The Trust for Public Land has once again led to an opportunity to preserve valuable property. This project is an important component to all the work we're doing to secure our water supply for the long run, and a wonderful bonus that this will also be an area the public can enjoy for hiking and wildlife viewing."

Under its agreement with the landowner, Webster Bank, TPL has until October 31, 2011 to complete the purchase of the property. Based on a November 2010 independent appraisal, the agreed upon purchase price of $4.15 million, is below the fair market value. The Town will proceed with the legislative process for approval that will subsequently go to referendum vote. If voters approve the purchase, the town will bond for the purchase price. This new bond will fit with the Town's new debt service plan and therefore, no net impact on taxes is expected. The town will become the permanent owner of the land.

The Darrow property was once slated to become an 18-hole golf course and country club facility. It was approved most recently for the construction of a 600-unit active adult community, with a mix of single-family detached, multi-family, and condominium units. Webster Bank, a regional bank based in Waterbury, CT, took title to the property in December 2008.

Robert Guenther, Webster Bank's senior vice president of public affairs, said, "Webster Bank is pleased to help the Trust for Public Land and the Town of East Lyme in protecting an important source of water for East Lyme residents and preserving the Darrow property as open space for future generations."

There are three town-owned wells on the property that can produce up to 200,000 gallons of drinking water per day.

In addition, The Darrow property is nestled between 3,558 acres of existing open space including Camp Pattagansett, the Yale Sheffield Scientific School, and Nehantic State Forest. It is a mix of open fields, oak and maple forests, and wetlands. Trails through the upland area afford scenic views of Darrow Pond and excellent wildlife watching opportunities.

The property is located in close proximity to four Natural Diversity Areas, which are described by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection as important locations for endangered, threatened and special concern species or significant natural communities. Its protection will support important corridors for wildlife.

Kris Lambert, Vice President of the Friends of Oswegatchie Hills, said, "Friends of Oswegatchie Hills has largely focused our efforts on land protection in the Hills, but given the nature of our interest, we are delighted with the opportunity for the Town. We are very much in favor of preserving this land in East Lyme."

Town boards and commissions will be reviewing the project between now and September. Public information sessions, as well as tours of the property, will be scheduled in advance of Town Meeting. Further information is available from TPL Project Manager Darci Schofield at (617) 371-0514 or Darci.Schofield@tpl.org.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit organization with an office in New Haven, works to conserve land for people to enjoy as working landscapes, parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. TPL has protected more than 6,000 acres of open space, watershed land, working farms and forestland, and historic resources in 40 communities across Connecticut.