A conservation easement for a more than decade-old land purchase by the town was approved by the Representative Town Meeting this week, but not without some questions.

The town purchased the former St. John Vianney property off Barberry Road, totaling almost 38 acres, from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport 12 years ago for $4.5 million, with the help of a $450,000 grant from the state. In exchange for the grant, state statutes require that the town grant it a permanent conservation easement for the parcel, restricting its use to passive recreation.

"Was there any discussion to pay back the state grant" so the town could make use of the property as local officials may want, Keith Varian, R-2, asked at Monday's RTM session. He said he wasn't suggesting the town develop the property, but that it might be beneficial to have the option of using the land for something other than passive recreation.

Ed Bateson, R-3, wanted to know what would happen if the town didn't sign the easement.

"Based on my discussions with the state, that's never happened," Town Attorney Stanton Lesser said. He said what might happen in that instance would be the town would be sued by the state for breach of contract. "We got money from the state; under the law we have to give this easement," he said.

As for paying back the grant money, Lesser said that apparently has never happened before, either.

A reason it took so long to get the easement hammered out, he said, is because of encroachments by two abutting property owners, Lesser said. Those issues have now been resolved, he said, thanks to work by Conservation Director Thomas Steinke.

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