Posts Tagged ‘Old Durham Road’

What the Councilors are looking for from Choate

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

As published in the Record Journal Friday September 25th, 2009

By Dave Moran
Record-Journal staff
dmoran@record-journal.com
(203) 317-2224 

What members of the Town Council told Choate Rosemary Hall they want in exchange for closing a portion of Old Durham Road:

Michael Brodinsky, chairman (D): Wouldn’t say.

Vincenzo Di Natale (D): Has recused himself.

Nick Economopoulos (D): “In order for me to say yes, we would have to walk away with something that made me say ‘How can we turn this down?’ ”

Jerry Farrell Jr. (R): Declined to specify: “I don’t want to undercut the thoughts of other councilors.”

John Le Tourneau (R): “I put forth the boathouse, $615,000 for the road and a strong educational component, meaning ground rules for use of the facilities.”

Robert Parisi (R): “I want something of lasting value, and it’s in the neighborhood of $600,000.”

Rosemary Rascati (R): “I would like to see the center happen, however, I still need a little more clarification on the educational component.”

Michael Spitieri (D): “I told them I was against selling the road under any circumstances.”

Vincent Testa (D): “If they were to propose something more, I would be more willing to consider the proposal.”

ROADBLOCK: Choate, councilors at odds

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

As published in the Record Journal Friday September 25th, 2009

By Dave Moran
Record-Journal staff
dmoran@record-journal.com
(203) 317-2224 

WALLINGFORD — The school wants a counterof­fer, but the Town Council chairman says he is “disap­pointed” with the request. In the latest devel­opment in Choate Rosemary Hall’s at­tempt to have the town close a 0.46-mile strip of Old Durham Road so the school can build an environmental cen­ter, Choate again ap­pears to be at odds with council Chair­man Michael Brodin­sky.

On Sept. 8, the council rejected without debate the school’s initial offer of either $260,000 — the appraised value of the road — or the deed to its two-acre former boathouse property on Washington Street in exchange for the road’s clos­ing.

Brodinsky, a Democrat, then reached out to Head­master Edward Shanahan and they agreed to a series of private meetings between school officials and coun­cilors.

Brodinsky said Thursday that the point of the meet­ings was to give the school an indication of what coun­cilors would be willing to accept in an offer, but Shanahan said Monday in an e-mail to Brodinsky that the school remained “in the dark” on the town’s expectations, and that the council should instead sub­mit an agreed-upon counterof­fer to the school for review at Choate’s Oct. 29-30 board of trustees meeting.

“After meeting with the council members and hearing their individual ideas regard­ing our current offer, it is clear to me that the council mem­bers collectively have a long (and growing) list of financial and other expectations beyond this offer; and there appears to be no clear, or even proximate, consensus among them,” Shanahan wrote. “It would cer­tainly help, therefore, if the council members would con­fer with each other and arrive at an agreed counteroffer to what we  have put on the table. Absent this, the school re­mains in the dark as to how to proceed.”

That’s not what Brodinsky was expecting.

“I’m disappointed that we spent all that time on the as­sumption — and Choate led us to believe — that they would be able to make an offer based on our feedback,” he said Thursday. “Choate certainly got some insight as to our real positions from those meetings. Choate now knows very specifically what offer it must make to get at least five votes. Choate is not in the dark; Choate is very well enlight­ened.”

Shanahan did not return calls for comment Wednesday or Thursday.

Most councilors were tightlipped this week on the discussions at last week’s meetings and what they had told school officials they expected in terms of compensa­tion. Democrat Vincenzo Di­Natale was the only one councilor not to participate; he has recused himself from vot­ing.

“Everybody doesn’t seem to have the same exact view of it,” said Vincent Testa, a Democrat who met with school officials along with Republican Robert Parisi. “My individual view was that the initial offer they made to us was not sufficient, even if I viewed that the road should be closed to begin with. I told them if they were to pro­pose something more, I would be more willing to consider the proposal.”

Democrat Michael Spiteri, who talked with school offi­cials with Republican Rose­mary Rascati, was the only councilor who said he has no interest in the school’s offer.

“I told them I was against selling the road almost under any circumstances,” Spiteri said. “What I told Choate is ‘ Don’t waste your time with me. Work on the other peo­ple.’” Republican John Le­Tourneau was the only coun­cilor to publicly state his de­mands to the school: “I put forward the boathouse, $ 615,000 for the road and a strong educational compo­nent, meaning ground rules for use of the facilities,” Le­Tourneau said, referring to Choate’s statement that the public schools would be al­lowed to use the center.

Brodinsky has scheduled a special council meeting for Oct. 1 to consider what he termed Choate’s “demand that the council must make a coun­teroffer Thursday to Choate’s offer.”

“The purpose of that meet­ing is to decide whether or not to respond to Choate, and in what manner,” he said.

The special meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the council chambers of Town Hall, 45 S. Main St.

FROM WALLINGFORD Old Durham Road: stay tuned

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

STEVE KNIGHT

Stephen Knight is a former Wallingford Town Councilor.

As published in the Record Journal Sunday August 23, 2009

V-Knight_S

The headmaster of Choate appeared before our Wallingford Town Council once again on August 11th. The discussion, which should have centered around and been limited to the justification for closing part of Old Durham Road and the compensation to the town for doing so, ranged far and wide.

It began with Chairman Brodinsky’s forty five minute interrogation of headmaster Shanahan. A third of that time was taken up discussing how the students would travel between the environmental center and the main campus. Following that was an attempt to diminish the significance of Choate’s willingness to legally designate that 130 acres of their property would never be developed by suggesting that, unless the public had unrestricted access “as a matter of right,” it really was not open space.

The entire exchange was best summed up by the chairman himself when he said that he considered the residents of Wallingford his “clients.” Indeed, the place had the air of a courtroom until other councilors were able to participate.

The multi-hour discussion yielded three general observations:1)the “town-gown” relationship between Choate and its host community needs improvement; 2) the “nanny state” is thriving in Wallingford, and 3) the distinction between public and private property is dangerously blurring.

“Town/Gown” relationship: Because of the very divergent responsibilities each has, maintaining a cordial working relationship between an exclusive private school and a town government takes effort. However, both organizations have one common responsibility upon which a good relationship can be built and maintained: the education of children. The most relevant parts of the entire discussion involved questions as to the extent that Choate might be willing to include local high school students in the activities of its environmental center.

I hope the headmaster takes a cue from the high degree of interest in that subject. By involving these students in an ongoing and substantive way, not only would Choate be providing a unique educational opportunity to children who might not otherwise have it, but the school would be building a common bond between itself and the town. Both entities would be much the better for it.

“Nanny State”: If you watch this meeting without cringing at the minutia into which a couple of Town Councilors delved, you have become inured to the nanny state mentality which is creeping into our daily lives. Choate Rosemary Hall has housed and protected thousands of young men and women for over a century. They are experts at it, and I am unable to see how the release of an easement allowing a public road over Choate’s property gives some of our public officials license to advise the school in carrying out that function. The school administration is capable of determining on its own where to construct paths and buildings on their own property without having to run every aspect of their plans by elected officials.

Private property/public rights: Choate Rosemary Hall is a private institution that owns hundreds of acres of property. In an effort to be a good neighbor, the school has shared some of its facilities with the town. Now it appears that a couple of Town Councilors have assumed that this gracious generosity is no longer a privilege but a right, and, additionally, that the private property the school promises to leave undeveloped is somehow no win the public domain. Do you remember a few years back how some busy bodies hectored Cytec about having Little League fields next to their chemical plant? And what was the result of that exchange? I am not suggesting that Choate will withdraw its involvement with the town as did Cytec. I am saying that officials that take for granted the civic-mindedness of private concerns put at risk all the goodwill built up by that generosity.

Stay tuned. And as you do, please keep in mind that surrounding this issue are others far larger than the closing of a small country road.

Choate, town in political tug of war

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

By George Moore
Record-Journal staff
gmoore@record-journal.com
(203) 317-2275 

As published in the Record Journal Thursday August 13, 2009

Follow all the news directly on the Record Journal Website for the most up to date information. www.myrecordjournal.com

Write a letter to the editor letters@record-journal.com

WALLINGFORD — The exchange is getting tense and accusations are flying.

Two months after Choate Rosemary Hall Headmaster Edward J. Shanahan met individu­ally with town councilors to discuss closing a portion of Old Durham Road to allow the school to build an en­vironment a l center in the area, a dialogue between Shanahan and council Chair­man Michael Brodinsky at Tuesday’s council meet­ing revealed discord be­tween the school and the town. “ Unfortunately it’s turned into pol­itics and I’m a little disap­pointed the chair of the council hasn’t moved this along,” Shanahan said Wednesday, adding that consideration of the private school’s request for the road is being delayed by political considera­tions.

He suspects that some are trying to put off a vote on the issue until election season this No­vember.

But Brodinsky said assessing a road closure is “a deliberative process that takes time.” He added that he has already stated publicly that the council will hold an up-or-down vote on Choate’s offer in September.

“Choate is in a hurry and they want the coun­cil to be in a hurry, so when we don’t march to their tune he’s quick to criticize,” Brodinsky said. “Ed doesn’t understand our responsibility to the public.”

Brodinsky said it is important to establish how the environmental center would be set up, among several other details, before making a decision that would affect resi­dents. He noted he is not run­ning for re-election.

Democratic Councilor Nicholas Economopoulos said the school ruffled some feath­ers when it made an offer for the road July 10. In exchange for closing the street, the school offered either to pay its appraised value, $260,000, or deed its boathouse property, off of Washington Street, to the town.

Economopoulos said the let­ter was off-base mentioning that the boathouse was ap­praised at $645,000 in Decem­ber of 2006, since the economy has declined since then.

“It’s almost like they think we’re stupid,” he said.

But Shanahan said the offer letter, written by Board of Trustees Chairman Herbert V. Kohler Jr., was forthright. He noted that the letter did state that the $645,000 should be re­duced 30 percent to take into account the current economy.

Economopoulos also dis­missed as bunk a letter Kohler sent to Brodinsky the day of the meeting, in which Kohler argued that, even if “there was no intent to return the land to an environmental preserve, the road should be closed as an example of sound gover­nance.”
Republican Councilor Robert Parisi said he wasn’t exactly satisfied with how the meeting was conducted Tues­day, but said it did clear up some questions.

Parisi said he would like to get a chance to negotiate with Choate about the terms of the road exchange. But negotiating could be difficult, since the discussions would have to be held in a public session. The town attorney has determined the town cannot go into closed-door executive sessions when it is talking about selling its own property.

Parisi said he has reached out to more than a hundred residents and found that the majority were in favor of the project.

Rosemary Rascati, a Repub­lican councilor, said she would like some clarification on how the school intends to preserve the land around the center. She said she would also like more specifics on how Choate would incorporate public school students into activities at the environmental center, something it promised to do as part of its proposal.

Democratic Councilor Vin­cent F. Testa Jr. acknowledged that Tuesday’s meeting was “a little tense,” but said part of that had to do with confusion over some of Choate’s plans.

It was clarified at the meet­ing, for instance, that the school plans to dedicate land as open space, though it would still hold title to the property.

Shanahan said the 128 acres east of East Main Street will be permanently dedicated as open space under a legal covenant. That land could not be developed, except for envi­ronmental center-related ac­tivities. The remaining acreage would also remain un­developed, though it would not be legally deemed open space.

Kohler, president and chair­man of the Wisconsin-based Kohler Co., a supplier of bath­room fixtures, would be the sole donor for the construc­tion of the center, which is es­timated to cost between $10 million and $15 million.

Brodinsky said he is eyeing the council’s Sept. 8 meeting for a vote. “That’s my current line of thinking,” he said Wednesday.

Q&A reveals tensions over Choate plan

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

By George Moore
Record-Journal staff
gmoore@record-journal.com
(203) 317-2275 

As published in the Record Journal Wednesday August 12, 2009

Follow all the news directly on the Record Journal Website for the most up to date information. www.myrecordjournal.com

Write a letter to the editor letters@record-journal.com

WALLINGFORD — The Town Council’s question-and-answer session Tuesday with Choate Rosemary Hall Headmaster Edward Shanahan re­vealed tensions about the school’s plan for an environmental center.

The private secondary school is asking the town to close a half-mile strip of Old Durham Road between Christian and East Main streets in or­der to build the center. Fourteen stu­dents would live and take classes at the environmental center, which would sit along East Main Street. A field station would be set up along Old Durham Road at which 30 to 50 oth­er students would work but not reside. Shanahan told councilors that Old Durham Road, if not closed, would present a danger to students per­forming studies in the area. Council Chairman Michael Brodinsky said students could be told to stay away from the road, but Shanahan said he doesn’t want a student to be hit by a car.

“I don’t want that to be a mark on my career,” he said, “and I know high school kids … and I know how inat­tentive they are.” Choate officials argue the road is es­pecially dangerous because of its poor sight lines. Brodinsky asked whether students from the center might walk along East Main and Christian streets to get to the main campus. Shanahan said a cross-coun­try trail serves that purpose.

The dialogue grew strained when Brodinsky began asking about the open-space benefits Choate has been attributing to the project. The project will provide for 260 acres of open space, the school states. Half of that land, Shanahan said, would be used as a research area for the environmental center, while the other half would re­main accessible to the public, though not as a matter of legal right.

Brodinsky, a Democrat, asked whether that meant the school could “pull the plug” on the public at some point.

Replied Shanahan: “I’m more em­barrassed by the question than I am by the answer, quite frankly,” adding that the school has allowed the public to use its open land for decades and would continue to do so.

The school has indicated a willingness to get town public school students involved with the environmental center. Shanahan said a committee will be set up in the fall between the faculty of Choate and the two public high schools to set up an educational arrangement. He also suggested that seniors from Choate and the two public high schools would converge at the environmental center to con­duct independent studies.

Brodinsky asked whether there is some way to ensure that would happen, since “our vote to change the road and convey the rights to you is for­ever.”

Shanahan replied that the school never looked at the ed­ucational component as an in­ducement for the closure of Old Durham Road. Rather, he said, the school is looking to se­cure a business transaction for the sale of the road. Choate has offered either $260,000 or the donation of its defunct boat­house property for the road.

Council Democrat Nicholas Economopoulos said Choate should put something “extra special” on the table.

“I don’t think it should be dollar for dollar,” he said.

But Shanahan said the school is already offering more than Ulbrich Stainless Steels and Special Metals did in 2007, when it purchased town roads at their appraised value. In ad­dition to money or the boat house, Choate is talking about giving up development rights to 130 acres in the area, he said. Republican Councilor Jerry Farrell Jr., a Choate alumnus, complained that Brodinsky’s line of questioning was impol­ite, adding that the council has a duty to consider safety. Old Durham Road, he said, is rife with blind spots.

No vote expected Tuesday on Choate land swap offer

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

By Dave Moran
Record-Journal staff
dmoran@record-journal.com
(203) 317-2224

 

As published in the Record Journal Thursday August 6, 2009

Follow all the news directly on the Record Journal Website for the most up to date information. www.myrecordjournal.com

Write a letter to the editor letters@record-journal.com

 

WALLINGFORD — It’s on the agenda, twice, but no vote is expected.

Choate Rosemary Hall’s pe­tition seeking the closure of a half-mile portion of Old Durham Road so the presti­gious private school can build an environmental center in the area appears twice on Tues­day’s Town Council agenda, but both Democrats and Re­publicans say a vote is unlikely. Council Chairman Michael Brodinsky, a Democrat, sub­mitted an item titled “ques­tions to and answers from Choate Rosemary Hall con­cerning its plans for an envi­ronmental study center,” while the Republican minority on the council — Jerry Farrell Jr., Robert Parisi, Rosemary Ras­cati and John Le Tourneau — requested “discussion and pos­sible action regarding the sale of a portion of Old Durham Road to Choate Rosemary Hall.”

The wording of Brodinsky’s item precludes the possibility of any sort of vote on Choate’s request, while Farrell said that the Republicans wanted space on the agenda to help bring to light aspects of the proposal where the council remains in the dark.

Farrell said that the Republi­cans made their request un­aware of the item from Brodin­sky, who has final say over the agenda, and only after internal party discussions revealed that none would push for a vote none would push for a vote that night.

“I think I can speak categor­ically for the four Republi­cans,” Farrell said Wednesday. “We’re not making any mo­tions (to vote on the issue) Tuesday night.”

Choate’s request, less than two months old, already has a long and complicated history with the town.

Edward Shanahan, Choate‘s headmaster, officially pre­sented the plan to the council at its June 23 meeting, but only after first meeting with each member of the council individ­ually, Mayor William W. Dick­inson Jr. and a number of other town personnel who have a stake in the road’s closure in the weeks and months leading up to the meeting.

An outpouring of public sentiment, both for and against the proposal, prompted such a lengthy discussion that the council did not even have time to debate the issue as a body that night. Brodinsky tabled the measure to allow for an in­dependent appraisal of the road, which came back last month at $260,000.

Herbert Kohler Jr., chairman of Choate’s board of trustees, responded with a letter offer­ing the town either the amount of the appraisal or the deed to the school’s former boathouse property, a 2-acre parcel worth $645,000, according to a 2006 independent appraisal ob­tained by the school.

In addition, the letter pledged to preserve 128 of the 262 acres of Choate-owned land around Old Durham Road as open space under a “binding recorded covenant or other mechanism acceptable” to the council.

But Brodinsky, a lawyer, termed the school’s proposal “inadequate” and drafted his own response letter, which he personally delivered Wednes­day to Shanahan at his office on campus.

Brodinsky’s two-and-a-half­ page note rebuts almost all of the claims made in Kohler’s letter and concludes: “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 business, in a way that is both expedi­tious, and responsible and re­spectful to our residents.”

Brodinsky declined further comment Wednesday.

“You don’t reveal your strategies and goals to the other side during a negotia­tion,” he said, adding “as far as a vote on the Choate proposal (Tuesday), I’ve had commit­ments that that is not going to happen.”

Shanahan said he was some­what troubled by the letter but that he hopes the council can keep sight of the benefits the school is offering the town, in­cluding access for public school students to the environ­mental center.

“It’s more argumentative than it is positive,” Shanahan said of Brodinsky’s letter. “It is not so much a response to the offer Mr. Kohler made as it is arguing about the basis for some of the claims that Choate has made about the road. There’s no acknowledgement that the school is trying to be fair in offering the boathouse or to pay the real estate value of the property, offering a covenant on the land and the educational aspect to the local schools.”

Shanahan said that if the council ultimately deems Kohler’s offer inadequate, the school would be willing to ne­gotiate some other type of compensation package at that point.

“I think the school wants to have a fair resolution on this,” he said. “Fair as defined by the town and the school sitting down together.”

When asked how he feels about the school’s offer, Far­rell, a 1986 alumnus of the school, said “I do believe it could be more than that.”

Closure of Old Durham Road – Letter to Herbert V. Kohler, Jr. from Mike Brodinsky Chairman, Wallingford Town Council

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

Download the entire letter

 

Mike Brodinsky
Chairman, Wallingford Town Council
45 Valley View Drive
Wallingford, CT 06492
203-284-1131

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.

 

Sincerely,
Mike Brodinsky
Chairman
HAND DELIVERED BY MIKE BRODINSKY

Choate has considerable impact on Wallingford

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

By Dave Moran
Record-Journal staff
dmoran@record-journal.com
(203) 317-2224

WALLINGFORD – An elephant seems to plod itself into the room whenever the subject of Old Durham Road comes up.

Choate Rosemary Hall has requested that the town close a half-mile portion of the road so the school can establish an environmental preserve in the area, and the elephant is the fact that Choate, as an educational institution, is exempt from paying taxes.

The school’s campus occupies 450 acres of land in the center of town, houses 119 buildings with an assessed value of about $91 million. That amounts to $2 million in property taxes that Choate, if it were a for-profit business, would pay to the town.

In 2008, Choate paid about $16,000 in taxes for several properties it owns that are not used for educational purposes, Comptroller James Bowes estimated last month; yet the school maintains a $200 million endowment and many residents, citing the tumultuous economic climate, have vocally expressed their opinion that the school, since it has such a sizable savings account, should be making some sort of good faith gesture to the town in the form of a payment in lieu of taxes.

“It’s something that should have been discussed, even before (the Old Durham Road) issue came up,” said Robert Gross, a mainstay at most of the town’s board and committee meetings who has repeatedly raised the issue at Town Council meetings; Gross is running for a spot on the council this year as a Democrat. “As a good citizen – and Choate’s a good citizen of the town of Wallingford – they should do their share for the town; they should be approached to sit down and talk about (the possibility of some sort of payment), that’s all. Everybody, in these economic times, should help and pull together.”

Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr., however, has publicly stated that he considers Choate a significant asset to the town, and that he feels approaching them for some form of a payment in lieu of taxes would be inappropriate, for a variety of reasons.

“Choate has a national, if not international, reputation, so Choate brings a notoriety, a prestige to the town that is very special in my view,” Dickinson said. “Wallingford becomes known not just as Wallingford, but as the home of Choate, an institution that is known all over the world.”

There are varying degrees of precedence, however, for private schools throughout the state that make voluntary payments to their host towns.

Two Washington schools, the Glenholme School and the Gunnery, both make voluntary payments to the town, First Selectman Mark Lyon told the Record-Journal last month, but those payments amount to substantially less than what the schools would owe in taxes, he said.

The Loomis Chaffee School, a Windsor-based boarding school with an endowment similar in size to Choate’s, does not make any sort of an annual payment, Town Manager Peter Souza told the Record-Journal last month, but has made donations and other one-time contributions in the past, most notably $250,000 several years ago to pay for the bulk of repairs on a section of a town road that runs through the campus.

Cheshire Academy, 10 Main St., Cheshire, makes a token payment of $1,000 to the town each year, which Deputy Finance Director James Jaskot said last month he couldn’t attribute, but which dates back decades.

Read the entire story online at MyRecordJournal.com – Choate has considerable impact on Wallingford

Choate’s letter to the town of Wallingford

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

As printed in the Record Journal on Tuesday July 21, 2009

Choate Rosemary Hall Herbert V. Kohler Jr.

Chairman, Board of Trustees The Honorable William W. Dickinson, Jr.

Mayor, Town of Wallingford Mr. Michael Brodinsky Chairman, Wallingford Town Council 450 South Main Street Wallingford, Connecticut 06492 Re: Closure of an Easement over a Portion of Old Durham Road Gentlemen; As you are aware, Choate Rosemary Hall has requested that the Town of Wallingford release a portion of its easement of Old Durham Road between Christian Street and East Main Street (the “Easement”) in order to permit the development of a leading edge, world class environmental study center (the “Center”) for the benefit of Choate and the Wallingford community.

Attached to this letter, as Exhibit A, is a map showing the location of the Easement.

Choate intends to construct the Center on 262 acres of ecologically diverse land which includes the Easement and is contiguous to the core of Choate. We plan to build a LEED certified structure housing a laboratory/teaching space and residential facilities which together we believe will constitute the finest secondary school environmental education facility in the world.

Use of this new facility would not be limited to Choate Rosemary Hall: the School, including its Trustees, administration and faculty, is committed to sharing this resource with the greater Wallingford community, and as Headmaster Shanahan explained at the recent Town Council meeting on this issue, meetings have already been held between Choate and the Wallingford high schools as to how best to use this new facility and the surrounding land on a cooperative basis.

Choate requests that the Town of Wallingford release a portion of the Easement because the Easement: (1) runs directly through the area planned for the Center, (2) is immediately adjacent to a watercourse integral to the Center’s educational programming; and (3) contains a documented dangerous road that would become even more dangerous because of the number of students doing research near the road. The Easement also is expensive for the Town to maintain compared to the apparent value it yields. The traffic that uses the Easement can be easily and conveniently redirected to straighter and safer roadways that would make a trip only a few seconds longer. The principal donor and developer of the Environmental Center has made removal of at least a portion of the road a condition for development of the project.

We understand that the entire Easement has been appraised by the Town at $260,000. Choate could easily take the position that this assessment is overpriced. However, we would prefer to be constructive, and therefore, make the following offer. Choate Rosemary Hall is willing to pay $260,000 cash to the Town upon legal release of the Easement, or in the alternative, Choate Rosemary Hall will transfer to the Town property described on the map attached as Exhibit B (the “Boathouse”). The Boathouse was appraised in December 2006 for $645,000 at its highest and best use, but in today’s economy should probably be reduced by 30%. (Appraisal enclosed in Exhibit B.) The Town of Wallingford may accept the cash or the Boathouse, at its election.

As a further benefit to the Town of Wallingford, Choate Rosemary Hall will commit to the Town of Wallingford through a binding recorded covenant or other mechanism acceptable to Town Council that the 128 acres of land east of East Main Street, described on the map attached as Exhibit C, shall be preserved in perpetuity as open undeveloped space, except for the buildings of the Center and its related activities.

The proposal set forth herein is subject to approval by the Board of Trustees of Choate Rosemary Hall which next meets August 21, 2009.

Please let me know at your earliest convenience how the Town of Wallingford wishes to proceed. The school would like development of the Center to commence at the first possible opportunity, so as to bring the Environmental Center to life for Choate and Wallingford as soon as we can.

Thank you for your consideration.

(Signed.) (Enclosures.)

What should Wallingford do with Old Durham Road? – WWW.MYRECORDJOURNAL.COM – READER POLL

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

Keep it as is?

Sell it to Choate for $260,000?

Trade it to Choate for the former boathouse property?

Cast your vote now!

http://www.myrecordjournal.com – near the bottom left of the entry page to the site.