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Chairman, Wallingford Town Council
45 Valley View Drive
Wallingford, CT 06492
August 5, 2009
Herbert V. Kohler, Jr.
333 Christian Street
Wallingford, CT 06492
RE: Closure of Old Durham Road
Dear Mr. Kohler:
Thank you for yours of July 10, 2009.
Your plan for a new environmental study center at Choate in Wallingford is an exciting development. I wish you well in your efforts; I am sure it will be a huge success; and I look forward to the many ways that Wallingford residents and Choate students may benefit.
As part of your plan for development, you have asked for the rights to a portion of Old Durham Road. The Council, therefore, must decide whether to accommodate Choate, and if so, on what terms and conditions.
Must the Town part with the designated portion of Old Durham Road in order for Choate to build its new facilities? It is a matter of common sense that Choate could build a new facility on its property without owning the road. if it wanted to do that, it could find a way.
Choate students should be able to use the campus acreage safely for its stated purpose and, when they must, carefully and safely cross Old Durham Road — just as they cross busier roads all over downtown Wallingford. This can be done without closing the road. Maybe a Choate crossing guard, and other measures, would work?
Choate has referred to said-supposed financial benefits that Wallingford would get, if it took over the road. I reject the suggestion that the Town would save annually $6,300 in maintenance. Choate may have cited one way to calculate the average annual cost of maintaining roads, but it has not accurately calculated the savings Wallingford would realize if the road was closed. Your other suggestion, that we would save capital expenditures of $247,000 by turning over the road, is also far-fetched. The Council, to my knowledge, is not planning to fund full reconstruction of the road, and it is unlikely that it ever will.
Choate’s repeated reference to the project as “open space” that benefits the Town is also troublesome. It suggests residents would have “access.” As I understand your plan, however, the land designated for the environmental study center would be Choate’s private property, not generally available to residents. If this is not an accurate assessment, the Town should get a document, in a form satisfactory to it, establishing the right of residents to use the land just as it may use the “open space” that the Town buys from time to time. Or, were you merely equating “access” to your “open space” to what one might get with a “drive by” experience.
Choate has referred to the said-supposed educational benefits to Wallingford students attending the public school system. But Choate has been vague. Its inducement is that an unknown number of students may use the facility in an unknown way, pursuant to an unknown curriculum, for an unknown number of days or hours, for an unknown duration of time. In the end, this may not be a very broad-based opportunity and the nature of the educational experience is left open to question.
Assuming for the purposes of discussion that Choate and the Town are able to come to terms, and the Town closes the road as you request, shouldn’t the terms and conditions upon which the Council vote was based be memorialized in one or more documents that can be enforced in a meaningful way? What remedies would you suggest for the Town if your various representations and contractual promises are not honored? Are you suggesting that the Council vote to close the road, subject to terms to be agreed upon later? And if we fail to agree, Choate still has the benefit of the vote to close the road?
With respect to the offer of $260,000, it is not self evident to me that the Town should release its rights to a portion of Old Durham Road, and deny residents the use of the road, merely because you are willing to pay a sum which approximates the appraised value of the town’s property interests. Residents have a reasonable expectation to keep using the Town’s road, and fair compensation for giving that up is beyond the scope of any appraisal, in my opinion. The appraised value estimates the road’s worth as a real estate asset; it fails to measure the value of the expectations residents have in using the road.
The manner in which the offer of the boat house was offered is also troubling. Mr. Shanahan’s piece in the Record-Journal tells an unsuspecting public that the boat house property was appraised at more than $600,000. Why was this mentioned? The appraisal was “as of” December 2006. And, didn’t Choate list the property for sale in 2007 and ask for only $349,900?
In view of what has already transpired, the conversations already had, the text of your letter, and the fact that you decided to make your offer in a public document when continuing private conversations were also possible, it appears as though you are looking for an up-or-down vote on your offer. Please be assured that we will be handling this offer in the normal course of our business, in a way that is both expeditious, and responsible to and respectful of our residents.
As always, please feel free to call with questions or concerns.
This matter is on the Council’s agenda for August 11, 2009. Please consider attending and answering the questions that the Councilors have. Additionally, as soon as possible, would you kindly provide the Council with the complete traffic study that the Headmaster referred to during the presentation in July. Thank you.
HAND DELIVERED BY MIKE BRODINSKY