Monday, March 14, 2005

Land Preservation and Suburban Growth

Newington "Agricultural Easement" a Model for Other Towns

Because I grew up in Newington, I was thrilled to see this:

NEWINGTON -- The Eddy Farm sits where it has since the early 18th Century, according to the Trust for Public Land.

It has operated continuously for the approximately 300 intervening years, producing corn, hay and fruit at the intersection of Cedar Street and Willard Avenue in Newington.

Now, through a recent arrangement secured by the Town Council and Town Manager Paul Fetherston, that will continue indefinitely, preserving the Eddy Farm’s 61 acres from all but agricultural development. (Reed)

Eddy Farm is one of the last remaining pieces of open land in Newington that isn't either swampland or a golf course. The town is basically buying the development rights to the land without buying the land itself. Other Newington farms have disappeared one by one (I can think of only one other that remains), victims of residential, industrial and commercial development. Eddy Farm remained mostly due to the stubbornness of former owner Roger Eddy, and the future of the property had been in doubt following his death.

This is a worthwhile program, and not one often seen in older suburbs. The cost may seem a little high, but towns concerned with preserving quality of life should pay close attention. As growth expands into traditionally rural areas, this type of program will probably become much more popular and necessary.

What is particularly interesting is this statement from Newington's town manager:

"If the property were to be developed into 146 housing units," Fetherston said, "the town would gain $1 million in tax revenues. But we would spend $2.7 million in services."

$2.7 million is the amount being spent on the easement. This is sensible planning. I hope the town council approves this plan, as it will enhance the quality of life in Newington, preserve a piece of the past, and prevent the construction of yet another cookie-cutter suburban development.

There is some good information about agricultural easements here:

Source: Reed, Eric. "Eddy Farm spared from future development". New Britain Herald 14 March, 2005.

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