A decade after Southport land buy, selectmen perplexed by easement

Town Attorney Stanton Lesser, left, on Wednesday discusses with the Board of Selectmen a conservation easement the town is expected to approve for the state on Southport property that the town purchased a decade ago. Selectman James Walsh is at right.
Town Attorney Stanton Lesser, left, on Wednesday discusses with the Board of Selectmen a conservation easement the town is expected to approve for the state on Southport property that the town purchased a decade ago. Selectman James Walsh is at right.Genevieve Reilly

The Board of Selectmen, encountering more questions than answers about a proposed conservation easement for the former St. John Vianney property, postponed action Wednesday on the idea.

According to Town Attorney Stanton Lesser, the town bought the property off Barberry Road in Southport about 10 years ago from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, in part using funds provided by the state. In exchange, he said, the town was to grant the state a conservation easement for the land, maintaining it for passive recreation in perpetuity.

Asked why it has taken so long to have the easement approved, Lesser, who just recently was named town attorney, said he did not know. "I think it might have fallen through the cracks," he said.

Selectman James Walsh said he was a member of the Representative Town Meeting when the property was purchased.

"This pretty much says we have to give our rights," Walsh said of ceding the easement to the state. "I don't remember this being a requirement at the time."

However, Lesser said that since state money was used to buy the property, the easement is necessary. "I believe it's statutory," he said.

"It's been in the works for eight years, it seems a hell of a long time to be in the works for," Walsh said. He added that without more information he was not prepared to vote Wednesday.

"It's waited 10 years, a couple of months isn't going to matter," agreed First Selectman Mike Tetreau, and suggested the town attorney get a copy of the original resolution adopted by the RTM and the minutes of the RTM session where the deal was approved.

Walsh agreed that it would allow the board to confirm "that this was the deal."

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