News of open space bought with a partner:  arguments come regarding passive v. active use!

Large purchases - in addition to Trout Brook Valley: Kelda (CT), Lachat (Town of Weston with the Nature Conservancy)

Lachat plans back on table; Town reconvenes committee
Weston FORUM
Nov 20, 2007

After months of inactivity, plans for the Lachat property jumped into high gear Thursday.

At its meeting Nov. 15, the Board of Selectmen voted to reconvene the Select Committee on the Lachat Property, which will meet with Steve Patton, Devil’s Den director, and prepare a plan that would ultimately come before a town public hearing.

That plan will likely include walking trails and a renovation of the Lachat house on Godfrey Road West.

“They have really stepped up to the plate,” said Selectman Glenn Major about the Nature Conservancy.

All this happened without the issue even being on the selectmen’s regular agenda.

Mr. Major asked that discussion of the Lachat property’s future be placed on the agenda after informing the board that he had met with Dr. Patton the previous day.

“The Nature Conservancy is not in a position to set out what its best plans will be,” Mr. Major said. “But Steve did indicate that the Nature Conservancy is very willing to talk to the town along the lines of the proposal that they earlier rejected.”

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the Weston FORUM website]

Lachat property: Committee sums up sentiments
Weston FORUM
Dec 6, 2006

After nearly three months of gathering public input, the Lachat Advisory Committee has approved its recommendations for the property that borders Devil’s Den Nature Preserve.

Chief among the recommendations the advisory committee is passing along to the Lachat Building Committee is that the existing buildings be structurally repaired and updated as needed; that the overall aesthetic feel of the property be maintained and preserved while allowing for greater access to Devil’s Den; and that parking and meeting space be made available.

Noticeably absent from the report are any recommendations for new buildings to be constructed at the site at this time.

The Lachat property consists of a 32-acre homestead parcel and 10 acres of hillside and meadows. In 1997 and 1999, the town of Weston and the Nature Conservancy jointly purchased the properties, including a farm house, a few barns, and several outbuildings, from the late Leon Lachat.

In 2005, the town and the Nature Conservancy presented a plan to the Planning and Zoning Commission calling for the renovation of several buildings and construction of a parking lot and new 5,204-square-foot visitors and education center on the Lachat property.

That plan was heavily opposed by the public and was withdrawn before coming to a vote. Further discord was noted at the Annual Town Budget Meeting in April when voters turned down a $450,000 appropriation for the Lachat project.

After those rejections, Steve Patton, the director of Devil’s Den, said the Nature Conservancy’s main focus had shifted from education to preservation, and it would respect the will of the people and support whatever the town wanted to do with the property.

To that end, the Board of Selectmen in August appointed five members to the Lachat Advisory Committee to gather input as to what the public would like to see done with the property.

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the Weston FORUM website]

Board of Selectmen: Town will pay Lachat bill
Weston FORUM
Jun 28, 2006

A “No” vote at the annual town budget meeting in April has not prevented the Board of Selectmen from taking steps to pay bills already incurred on the Lachat project.

At a special meeting held Tuesday at 10 a.m., the selectmen unanimously voted to approve a supplemental appropriation of $98,500 to pay the town’s share of existing bills for the Lachat project.  The project is a joint venture between the town and the Nature Conservancy to create a gateway to Devil’s Den on property once owned by the late Leon Lachat.

If the selectmen’s appropriation is approved by the finance board, the money will be withdrawn from the town’s fund balance and paid to the conservancy.

The move comes after the Annual Town Budget Meeting on April 19 during which voters rejected using $450,000 from the capital budget to move the Lachat project forward. At that meeting, Ken Bernhard, town attorney said he believed if the town did not pay its share, it would be breaking its agreement with the Nature Conservancy to cover half of the cost of the project.

Voters at the budget meeting also rejected a motion to include $100,000 in the 2006-07 budget to cover half the costs already incurred on the project.

A plan for the project, including a new visitors center, was withdrawn from the planning and zoning commission after considerable public opposition to the plan’s scope and size. There is no current plan pending and the selectmen have said they need to reactivate the Lachat Building Committee to start the project rolling again.

Although voters rejected the payment at the Annual Town Budget Meeting, Mr. Bliss said regardless, the town still owes the Nature Conservancy its share of what has already been spent on the project.  Selectman Glenn Major, who attended the selectmen’s meeting via telephone conference call, made the motion for the appropriation subject to certain conditions.

It was subject to receiving a letter from town counsel confirming the validity of the town’s agreement with the Nature Conservancy and the town’s obligation to pay the expenses incurred thus far.  It was also subject to receiving an explanation about a Nature Conservancy legal bill dated June 6 for $4,435.73.

“Is that an appropriate charge to the town?” Mr. Major asked. First Selectman Woody Bliss said he “didn’t have the answer” and would find out about it.

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the Weston FORUM website]

Lachat property:  Public sends message to revive the building committee
Weston FORUM
 Jun 21, 2006

Selectman Glenn Major heard loud and clear that people want an idle building committee to be revitalized so it can come up with a new plan for the Lachat property.    

On Wednesday, June 14, a public forum called Lachat: What Now? sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Weston was attended by about 50 people at the Weston Public Library to discuss the next steps to take in the development of the Lachat property off Godfrey Road.

Several members of the audience asked if the building committee for the project, which was orignally made up of representatives from the Nature Conservancy and representatives from the town, could be reactivated with additional members appointed to provide more diversity.

Mr. Major took that request to the selectmen the next day. He recommended a review of the present makeup of the Lachat building committee and proposed expanding it to include members of the public and certain interest groups.

At the forum, different sides of the Lachat issue were presented by a panel of speakers, followed by a question and answer session with the audience. It was moderated by Richard Troxell.

The panel included Mr. Major, George Guidera, former first selectman, Carolyn Mulcahey of the Lachat Preservation Alliance, a group opposed to the town’s plan of development for the property, and Steve Patton, the director of The Nature Conservancy’s Devil’s Den Preserve.

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the Weston FORUM website]

League of Women Voters asks: Lachat: What Now?
May 24, 2006

The public will have an opportunity to ask questions and hear from a panel of speakers about the future of the Lachat Education Center project at an upcoming informational meeting sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Weston.

The Planning and Zoning Commission held a pubic hearing last September on a joint town and Nature Conservancy proposal to build an education center on the former Lachat property just off Godfrey Road West. That proposal called for construction of a visitors’ center and education facility with classrooms; stabilization and improvements to an existing barn and its annexes; and renovation of an 18th Century house that would be used as an administrative center for Devil’s Den. Parking spaces for hikers would be created near the Godfrey Road entrance with additional parking available in a secluded area above the site on the east meadow.

Estimated costs for the project were approximately $3 million, which was to be split between the town and the Nature Conservancy.

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the Weston FORUM website]

Link here to letter from LWVCT supporting the Kelda purchase