Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Common Council Approves Money For Study of St. Sebastian Purchase

After a fiery meeting last month, Monday's Common Council meeting was all business, short on debate, and long on moving expeditiously through a series of funding ordinances and resolutions.

The Common Council voted to appropriate $59,800 toward the purchase of St. Sebastian School for conversion to a new Senior Center for the city.   An estimated $10,000-$20,000 will be used to fund a study to determine if the old city school on Durant Street is appropriate and suitable for a Senior Center.

After another set of pointed questions from Common Council member David Bauer to city planner Bill Warner during the questions to directors, about the sale of land to the Westfield Fire Department, the Common Council approved the sale of the land, valued at $120,000 for $60,000.  The Westfield Fire Department wants to build a new station on the land, but will not likely do so for another decade.

Bauer questioned the initial deal for the land which the city agreed to buy from Ted Bysiewicz to prevent the Army from purchasing the land as a site for it's Army Reserve Training Center.

Bauer questioned the price of the land purchase from Bysiewicz by the city (3 acres at $143,000 per acre), and why the city appeared to have purchased the least attractive land for development.  Bauer mentioned a CL&P right of way, and power lines through the property and a covenant against development near the border with property owned by the Mazzotta family.

"Why did we purchase this lot," Bauer asked.  "It is the most oddly shaped of all the lots."

In addition, Bauer questioned the propriety of selling land brought from Bysiewicz, who is represented by Attorney Mike Dowley, to the Westfield Fire Department in a deal in which Bysiewicz represented the Westfield Fire Department, who is represented by Dowley.

"Are you comfortable that they are on one side of the deal, and then on the other side of the deal?" Bauer asked.

Warner countered that the land purchased by the city is an "improved industrial development lot," which has already drawn purchase interest from two prospective buyers.

Answering Bauer about why the city bought the particular lot it did, Warner explained that the city did not have a choice.

"When you're buying a piece of industrial property for industrial development," Warner said.  "You just don't say 'We want that piece.'"

Several other Council members followed Council member Ron Klattenberg in a case of collective amnesia about how proceeds from the sale of the Bysiewicz land should be used.

Klattenberg claimed that it was always intended that "some amount of compensation for the sale" would go to the city's open space fund.

"To the degree that we would compensate the city for the loss of Cucia Park," Klattenberg said.

Council members Serra, Daley, Pessina and Streeto confirmed Klattenberg's recollection.

In fact, the compensation for lost park land was originally proposed by Serra in October 2008, but it was strictly tied to the proceeds realized from the sale of Cucia Park.  Further, Westfied resident, and Wesleyan biology professor Stephen Devoto (full disclosure - Devoto is a correspondent for the Middletown Eye) scolded the Council at the June 22, 2009 meeting of the Common Council for abandoning their promise, and ignoring the resolution to use proceeds from the sale of Cucia Park for purchase of open space or park lands.

In other business, the Council approved $6,500 for a study of how to maintain the city's parking arcade on Dingwall Drive over the next five years, and an expenditure of $740,000 to complete upgrades of all city-owned lots with lighting, security, paving and meters.  The Council will take a second vote on the $740,000 expenditure at a meeting next week.

Parking director Tom Hartley said he expects the bonding to be repaid with revenue from improved city parking.

The Council also passed a series of ordinances to improve conservation and energy savings at Fire Station Headquarters, the Fire Station South and Russell Library.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Where is the money coming from for the Parking and St Sebastian upgrades? I'm curious about the Community Health Center as well, where will $10M come from? The grant is for $7mil and the total expected cost is $17mil?

Bill Warner said...


The city bought 3 acres at $143,000an acre (not 6.6 acres) using proceeds from the Cucia Park sale. It was done to force the federal government to Cucia Park which resulted in $2 million coming to the city. After the agreement, Westfield Fire approached the city to buy from the city 3/4 of an acre of the 3 acre piece. The RETAIL value of good flat industrial land at the time was $143,000 an acre. Applying that to 3/4 of an acre equaled about $120,000. The 3/4 of an acre was NEVER valued by anyone at $120,000. Fact is the 3/4 acre is triangular and very steep sloping. Its value is certainly closer to $60,000 than $120,000.

It is a good deal, the city gets $60,000 and retains a fully buildable industrial lot.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love how the Planning Director uses math skills to sell a bad idea to the people. Ok, so Mr. Byscewicz approaches the City and says "hey the feds cant have that area, here is three acres at 143,000 per acre". So the City says "ok sir, here's the money from the sale of the land that actually forces the feds into this land". 2 million in profit from something that had not taken place yet, but we will give you 429,000 for it. But then the council uses that same 2 million to balance it's budget! Hmmmm!

Then we see Westfield fire, who Mr. Bysewicz is a commissioner approach the city for 3/4 of an acre for a future (more than a decade) firehouse using responses to the western end of town as an excuse. The land valued at 143,000 (your words not mine) is then devalued all the way down to 60,000because the Planning Director says its sloping and not worth but 60,000 any way. Well, why did you pay 143,000 for it in the first place then? The way I see it you just subsidized a terrible idea from a bunch of thugs. By the way, when the City purchases land, isnt it suppose to be for ALL the publics use? As in open space purchases so that our children can reap the benefits of it? Unless of course your trying to buy it to build lets say, a firehouse there!

If they needed it that badly, they should be addressing the need right now! They should have paid Mr. Bysewicz 143,000 for a full acre! Built another firehouse now, not later! But instead they get to sit on land at the taxpayers expense (all of Middletown taxpayers by the way) and continue to run out to the western end with the same response issues they claim are a problem now. If it smells like fish, its probably fish! Huh, he sent it at 09:19 am, sure hope he isnt on taxpayers time writing responses about questionable land sales! It's a good deal for Westfield, a BAD deal for the rest of the taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

I am glad that Mr. Warner believes he "forced" the Federal Government to buy Cucia Park. Why didn't he "force" them sooner!? It seems to me that Mr.Bysiewicz "forced" the City to buy some of his land. I do not believe that anyone could have "forced" Mr. Bysiewicz to sell his land to the Federal Government. Did the feds want to buy it? More likely, he wanted to sell it! I hope someone gets some good out of this deal, especially the in-the-dark citizens.

Bill Warner said...

If you take an average the land was selling for $143,000, if you cut out from the building lot 3/4 of an acre of the steep sloping land that can't support an industrial building, its obviously not worth $143,000 an acre.

In the end the city got the Army base right where we wanted them, got $2 million from the Army, preserved 88 acres on Boardman Lane as open space at no cost to the city forever, and got a new manufacturer with an assesed value of over $2 million and close to 100 jobs at the Byscewicz development not a bad deal for the city.

I am home sick today using my sick time writting about city business.

Jane Harris said...

It's Michael Dowley, not Dowling.

Anonymous said...

Wait til the council or planning board has to vote on to pay for a housing study down town- talk about a bad idea coming down the pipe line- basically business owners will get free plans and designs on how to make their properties into apartments over the store fronts. Over and over this has been brought up and we all know it will not work- no one wants to live on main street with the condition it is in and those that do are the type to bring it down. No public study paid for by tax payers should be for work that the private owners should choose to do themselves and pay for if they choose so. You can bet they have a firm in mind to do the study as well.

fishmuscle (Stephen H. Devoto) said...

Bill Warner and perhaps others seem to be puzzled over why anybody could be upset over the outcome of the Army/Cucia/Boardman deal. I have no quarrel whatsoever with the deal to sell Cucia Park. I strongly supported it at the time, and still do. As part of the Westfield Residents Association, I helped to enable it through pressure at all levels of government (in particular with the Governor's office, which removed troops from the army training facility at our suggestion).

What is there left to be upset over?

My quarrel comes from discovering that my trust in the integrity of councilmembers was silly and naïve. When the council passed a resolution which promised that money from the sale of Cucia would be used to preserve equivalent open space, I honestly believed this, especially since that promise was given to secure the support of the Conservation Commission. When the council then proved to residents that their promise was just for show, it was a kick in the gut of idealism.

If someone in a position of power, whom you trust and admire, promises to pay you back for your support, and then after getting the support reneges on the payment, it's a betrayal. A winning lottery ticket (the Army buys Boardman Lane), does nothing to change the broken promise and betrayal by the Council. That betrayal can only be mitigated when the council fulfills its own promise to set aside a portion of the Cucia Park proceeds sufficient to preserve an equivalent open space.

When a councilman holds up $60k and says this is for open space, I say "HOORAY". When he proudly celebrates that this fulfills a promise (to preserve open space equivalent to the 40 acres of Cucia), the joy is more than a little tempered by the reminder of the betrayal. It's more like another kick in the gut.

Anonymous said...

Even without the removal of troops, the Cucia {ark parcel was of sufficient size to meet the Army's needs. Thank goodness this brilliant solution sprang like Athena, fully formed, from the head of, dare I surmise, Bill Warner? Probably it was some other Westfield Resident.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the Council resolved

...the loss of approximately three acres of potential park and open space land would be compensated with no net loss of equivalent open space and...that monies sufficient to replace the park and open space land as a result of such sale would be placed in a special city account for the purchase of park and/or open space land...

Meanwhile the Council got into the Industrial Land Speculative buying business when Mr.Bysciewicz suggested it would be a good deal. Thank goodness that other tenant signed on because otherwise the City would have ended up with three parcels.

Ellen Lukens said...

Many members of the Conservation Commission supported the sale of Cucia to the Army since it was clear from the resolution that money from the sale of this land WOULD be used to buy an equivalent amount of Open Space in the city. As we all know, this had not happened.

Thanks to Ron Klattenberg for raising the issue and I hope the Common Council will make possible the fulfillment of this commitment.

Mr. Fixit said...

St. Sebastian's School has parking for 22 Cars (I counted the slots). Once the City Staffers have parked their vehicles, where will the Seniors park? Local street parking is very restricted (at present).

And, what becomes of the Noon Meal, presently served on Williams St? Will the city bus the participants to the new location? Or, if the Noon Meal remains on Williams St, will the city have to shuttle folks from the new location and back after the meal?? Lotsa questions - and no good answers yet.

Has anyone asked the Seniors what they think of the proposed relocation? Not that I'm aware of. Has any survey been done recently of Senior's needs and wants?

For my money, I think the proposed location stinks for the above-mentioned reasons (and other voiced in an earlier comment).