A recent story published in the Record Journal “Wallingford PZC still committed to special housing zone” discussed the possible expenditure of $10,000.00 for an updated traffic study where some of the Republicans Councilors quoted indicating that there was no need for one. Some further indicated “When we don’t know, we go to an expert” but yet not wanting to because “I’ve never seen a traffic study that I could honestly say was accurate.”
I guess they are experts.
Here’s what I know and realize subject to only my personal knowledge on the subject.
2008 was when the last traffic study was done and businesses and traffic has changed since then. Five years later and for the changes we are proposing (Incentive Housing Zone) and the ones that will occur because of state work (Commuter Rail) this is something we should do if for no other reason to have a baseline for right now as I realize that once the zone is in and developers begin using it and the Commuter Rail has whatever impact it has that the parameters will no longer be constant and a new study will be needed but at least we’d have a before and after by doing it this way.
Now what you also need to remember that back in 2004 the town challenged the Werbiski family in court and won the right to enter and survey their land to do feasibility studies for a possible road that would give access to a planned industrial expansion zone in an area where one does not exist. The study would be done for land we DID NOT own and that the the Werbiski’s said they DID NOT want to sell.
The cost for the surveying from nearly ten years ago?
$12,000 - approved by the Town Council at the time. The council voted 5-1 along party lines Tuesday to approve the funding for the survey, with Republicans in favor. Brodinsky and Vincenzo M. Di Natale, a Democrat, recused themselves from voting.
So tell me – what’s the smarter expenditure of tax dollars? A relevant traffic study for use now in the Wallingford Downtown for parking areas that we already own and for parking in development or a larger expenditure from 10 years ago, not inflation adjusted, for 150 acres of farmland that we did not own and where the owners did not want to sell?
Below are the stories on this as searched off the archives at the Record Journal.
July 25, 2004
Bill Yelenak, Record-Journal staff
WALLINGFORD - A North Farms Road farming family plans to appeal a court decision from earlier this month that gave the town the right to enter and survey their land. The town sought to do feasibility studies for a possible road that would give access to an industrial expansion zone.
Walter and Joyce Werbiski, residents of 1069 North Farms Road, blocked the town on several occasions from entering their land for the purpose of mapping and surveying the area, but lost the battle when a court granted an injunction to the town earlier this month. The Werbiskis gave the town access last year, but Walter Werbiski said last month that he threw surveyors off his property and refused to let them return after they misled him about the equipment they would be using.
The surveyors left rocks, long nails and plastic flags on the land, Walter Werbiski said. He worried that his cows would eat the plastic and die. The Werbiskis have a dairy farm and grow feed for their cows on their 120 acres.
The town has been battling with both the Werbiskis and Meriden Board of Education President Frank J. Kogut over the right to map their properties for the possible expansion, and the Werbiskis on their dairy farm are the last holdout. However, echoing his comments from earlier this month, Kogut said he still plans to take action against the town when the time is right.
"Nope, I'm waiting to see what the town's next move is," Kogut repeated.
"When I know what they're doing, then I'll make mine." The town is looking at 270 acres in the industrial expansion zone, but owns none of it. It wants to build roads through the zone to encourage development.
First, surveying would have to be done.
Joyce Werbiski said last week that she and her husband would fight the initial court decision because a road through their property would cripple the family's livelihood. Her husband and son are third- and fourth-generation farmers, respectively, she said.
"They'd split our farm in thirds and, basically, it would put us out of business," Werbiski said of the town. "This is how we've been making a living for so many years." Michael Brodinsky, a former town councilor and the attorney for the Werbiskis, said last week he thinks the judge misinterpreted the law. The town, Brodinsky explained, had to "allege and then prove that if they don't get the injunction, the town will suffer "irreparable harm. The town of Wallingford did not plead or prove irreparable harm, so we wonder how the judge could grant the injunction." Town Attorney Janis Small said the appeal took place because there was a "disagreement as to what the law is." She said the next round of appeals, which could take about a year, would focus on whether the law was interpreted correctly.
"It certainly would have been our preference to ... finish the feasibility study so we could tell whether it's a public project worth pursuing," Small said. She said that the appeal, which would delay the process, was disappointing. Joyce Werbiski said she was stunned at how the town could be so brazen to act as if it owned the property by wanting to map and survey it for feasibility reasons.
"It's not their property, and I don't see how they can think that they can come in," she said. "I could see if it was for something important, but we have - what, six industrial parks in Wallingford now? None of them are full." Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. agreed with Small that it was unfortunate the town had hit another roadblock, but said in the long run he thought the area would be beneficial for the entire town.
"It's an asset to the town if it's properly owned and developed," Dickinson said last week. "Disharmony on things is never welcome news, but unfortunately, it's part of everyone exercising their rights." Kogut again offered to sell his land to Dickinson and the town should they want to build another industrial park, but Joyce Werbiski said her family wasn't willing to sell and they only wanted the town to "leave us alone and let us keep on farming the way we have for years." Dickinson said the town would most likely not be interested in all of Kogut's property, but just a portion large enough to put a road and utilities into the area.
"At the point we know it's a feasible route, we'll take up acquisition of the right of way," Dickinson said. "We haven't reached a point that we want to own the whole area." Dickinson said he was unsure of how the town would go about acquiring the land.
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Copyright 2004, 2006 Record-Journal
October 10, 2006
Zoning for a future
Zoning for a future
The people of Wallingford need to step back and take a good look at the future mapped out by their zoning regulations to see if it's what they want. Why? The answer is that pressure is building for development in many places. Here are two of special interest. Example 1: the 270 acres in the North Farms area presently designated as an I-X zone for industrial expansion. The town has just won a Supreme Court case giving it the right to do surveying work against the wishes of the landowners. The plan the town has in mind includes over two miles of road through this extensive area. But the owners of 150 of those 270 acres, Walter and Joyce Werbiski, don't want to sell their land. They are farming it and intend to go on farming it for the foreseeable future.
And why shouldn't they? Does Wallingford, for the sake of the tax dollars that some other use may engender, truly want to buy farm land from people who don't want to sell it and build roads? Does Wallingford need to trade bucolic cattle so that industrial development - even the genteel industrial development currently in vogue - can tear up the landscape? We needn't get into the issue of eminent domain at this point. While the possibility has been raised, it is hard to imagine a town administration determined to embark on so a disastrous and unpopular a course. Think, for now, whether Wallingford residents really want to exchange cows for commuters in the I-X zone. Alternatively, think whether the town wants so badly to encourage development in that I-5 zone around the interchange between Routes 68 and I-91 that it would broaden the permitted uses there. When I-91 was built, the idea of development in these areas seemed promising, particularly in terms of office parks and hotels. But the expected boom in such fields withered on the vine. Property owners would now like to expand the definitions in the I-5 zone to include other activities - day-care, sit-down restaurants, fitness clubs - so they can make their property more marketable. That's not an unreasonable request, from their point of view. But Wallingford residents are as capable as anyone else of looking at interchanges in other communities where strip malls and fast-food outlets have been permitted to proliferate. Route 68 and nearby roads have indeed changed dramatically since I-91 was built a generation ago, mainly through the presence of Bristol-Myers Squibb and the big Postal Service facility. There's plenty of traffic in the area already: is it needful to "improve" the area with a broadened list of permissible uses? People have chosen to locate in Wallingford because of its mixture of town and suburb, factory and farmland. Whether they continue to do so is partly a matter of choice as the town considers its land use and zoning plans - and those plans deserve all the scrutiny residents can give them.
Copyright 2006, 2008, Record-Journal, All Rights Reserved.
September 29, 2006
Study of industrial park feasibility to begin
Study of industrial park feasibility to begin
WALLINGFORD - Armed with the state Supreme Court's legal clearance and $12,000 approved by the Town Council this week, the town is set to initiate a controversial wetlands mapping survey of private property to determine the feasibility of an industrial park. The survey marks a renewed interest in the possibility of converting 270 acres of land on the north side of town into an industrial area, though some residents in the area have firmly resisted the concept. The land is located near North Farms Road and the Meriden line. The town's interest despite some residents' resistance prompted speculation that the town is considering taking property for roads through eminent domain, but officials who support the survey say it's only a first step in a long-term planning process. While the 270-acre area is divided among several landowners who use it for farming and residences, it is classified as an industrial expansion, or I-X zone. Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. and others officials regard this as a crucial area for future development, since it is one of the last remaining patches of the zone in town. As a first step in the research process, officials want to investigate the feasibility of building 11,200 linear feet of roads through the property, which would serve industrial lots envisioned for the area. The council on Tuesday approved the $ 12,000 to hire an engineering firm that will study the presence of wetlands on or near the proposed roads and measure topography. The town is expected to contract with Cheshire firm Conklin & Soroka for the survey, which submitted the low bid at $ 11,500. The mapping study has become a controversial topic, because residents Walter and Joyce Werbiski, who own 150 acres of farmland in the area, have rejected any plan to build roads through their parcels.
They kicked surveyors off their property in 2003, when the town first attempted a mapping survey. Their action sparked a legal process that concluded with a Supreme Court ruling last year that the town has the right to survey private property. But the Werbiskis continue to oppose the plan and have said they don't plan to sell the farm. Town Councilor Michael Brodinsky, a Democrat who represents the Werbiskis as an attorney, spoke out against the concept at Tuesday's council meeting after recusing himself from the council vote. Brodinsky grilled Dickinson and councilors about whether they would use eminent domain to build a road through the land. They declined to answer the question, but said the survey was just a first step in a long planning process. Brodinsky said he does not believe the town would perform the survey if it planned to wait 15 or 20 years before taking action. The survey would lose relevance in that time, he said. "Because it's so silly and speculative and such poor planning, it raises the inference that it really cannot be what they have in mind," he said Thursday. "The other way to get in roads and infrastructure is eminent domain and they're not talking about it." But council Vice Chairman Stephen W. Knight, a Republican, said Thursday the intention of the survey has been warped. The survey, he said, would provide information that could be used when property owners want to "cash in" and sell their land years from now. The survey would not lose relevance, he said, because "the land is not going to change." "Someone is trying to tie the eminent domain can to our tail and the only way that can be done is through wholesale distortion," Knight said. Knight said he considers the use of eminent domain in the interest of private development an "abusive" government action and "would never vote to have private property taken to give over to another private owner." The survey, he said, could reveal that the land is not useful for an industrial park, which would close discussions altogether. If it shows that roads are possible for the area, he said, it would become an important planning tool for the future. It would cost around $5 million to create the envisioned industrial park. Dickinson said it is important to do feasibility studies before the town even considers financing such a proposal. For that reason, there is no set schedule for the project being considered. "There is no timetable on that," he said. "It's an expensive proposition and first you have to know if it's feasible. Town Engineer John Thompson said property owners in the 270-acre area have been mailed a letter informing them of the survey. He said the town will make arrangements with owners to ensure that the flagging does not interfere with agriculture or other operations. The wetlands mapping should begin between October and April. Thompson said the firm will attempt to remove flagging materials as quickly as possible, preferably within the same day they are put up. "We don't want to tread on these people's properties any more than we have to," he said. The council voted 5-1 along party lines Tuesday to approve the funding for the survey, with Republicans in favor. Brodinsky and Vincenzo M. Di Natale, a Democrat, recused themselves from voting.
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Copyright 2006, 2008, Record-Journal, All Rights Reserved.