TPL Announces Phillips Farm Conservation Forums (CT)

New Hartford, CT, 9/27/2007: The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit conservation organization, has reached an agreement with the owners of the Phillips Farm to purchase a conservation easement on their land, thereby preventing its future development. If the effort is successful, the 59-acre property, located on East Cotton Hill Road just south of Route 202, would be permanently protected as open space and working farmland.

The public is invited to hear a presentation on this opportunity and to ask questions at two upcoming sessions: Tuesday, October 2, 7:00 PM at the South End Firehouse, and Wednesday, October 10, 7:00 PM at the Beekley Library.

Alicia Betty, Project Manager for TPL, said, “The Trust for Public Land is pleased to continue our work in New Hartford, which has shown an exceptional commitment to preserving its beautiful scenic character and farming tradition. In these days of intense pressures to develop properties such as this one, we’re happy to be a partner in the town’s efforts to protect its treasured farms.”

The Phillips Farm has been a priority for the New Hartford Open Space Preservation Commission due to its shared wetland and border with the Goula property, its high quality streams, and its agricultural resources which are part of the town’s farming heritage. The farm will be protected through an agricultural easement, which would permit passive recreational access on trails and would help create a 300-acre continuous swath of protected land.

The Phillips Farm Property has historically been a dairy farm and is now used for hay production. The parcel contains forests, several open fields, and a large, pristine wetlands areas that was partially protected when the Town purchased Goula Farm a few years ago. The streams on the farm drain into tributaries that feed the Nepaug Reservoir, so its protection will also safeguard drinking water supplies of the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC).

The farm’s fields and significant untouched forested areas also provide important wildlife habitat. Notably, a pair of bobolinks, listed by the DEP as a species of Greatest Conservation Need, was observed in residence on the property. In addition, the property supports the Whip-poor-will, a State Species of Special Concern.

Another outstanding feature of Phillips Farm is its beautiful views. The gently sloping farmland reaches a high point that provides sweeping, picturesque views of rolling hills for miles. This asset makes it attractive to potential housing developers.

The Phillips Family has offered The Trust for Public Land and the Town of New Hartford a chance to protect the land and keep it undeveloped. TPL has obtained a contract to purchase a Conservation Easement on the property for $730,000. The Phillips Family has generously agreed to allow payment over the next four years to make it easier for the Town. TPL has applied to the State of Connecticut DEP for a grant of up to 50% of this purchase price. Any grant award will reduce the town’s cost by an amount. Equal to the grant. The grant decisions will likely be announced this fall.

As next steps, the Board of Selectmen will need to endorse the project and formally send the acquisition to the Board of Finance for consideration. If the Board of Finance approves, a referendum date will be set for the fall, at which time voters will decide whether to expend $730,000 for the acquisition of development rights.

Bob LaGoy, former First Selectman of New Hartford and current member of the Town’s Open Space Preservation Commission, said in a statement, “This proposed acquisition showcases the collaborative efforts of the Town of New Hartford Open Space Preservation Commission, The Trust for Public Land, and the Phillips Family to permanently protect our valuable natural resources. This offers the Town a unique opportunity to preserve our agricultural heritage and to create a linkage to protected land for expanded hiking and nature trails.”

The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit organization, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for people to enjoy as natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. TPL has protected nearly 5,000 acres of open space, watershed land, working farms and forestland, and historic resources in 35 communities across Connecticut.