City, WPCA Eye Land Swap

Melissa Bailey PhotoIn a proposed land deal with the Water Control Pollution Authority, the city aims to regain control of an out-of-the way roundabout where ATVs and dirt bikes have been sneaking into East Shore Park. 

The city introduced the land swap in a submission to the Board of Aldermen earlier this month. The city proposes giving over two small plots of land to the WPCA, in exchange for a 1-acre plot near the rear entrance to East Shore Park, at no cost to either party.

The deal aims to “straighten out” an error made in 2005 when the city spun off its WPCA to a new suburban-dominated entity, according to city parks chief Bob Levine. As part of that deal, the city was supposed to cede a small area of land adjacent to the WPCA’s water treatment plant at 345 East Shore Parkway, in an industrial stretch of the East Shore between I-95 and East Shore Park.

The WPCA recently looked into its land records as it makes way for a plant upgrade, and discovered a problem: The land adjacent to the plant, which the WPCA has been using for years, still technically belongs to the city, said WPCA Executive Director Sid Holbrook.

“There was just a glitch in the transaction,” Holbrook said.

The city now proposes ceding two small plots of land to the WPCA to make way for its plant upgrade. In exchange, the city will take back a traffic circle and a larger, 1-acre plot of land where East Shore Parkway, aka Connecticut Avenue, dead-ends into a cul-de-sac.

The roundabout sits right near a rear entrance (pictured) to East Shore Park. The rear entrance is closed to vehicular traffic. But illegal ATVs and dirt bikes have been using the back entrance to sneak into East Shore Park, according to Levine. Levine said he has heard from at least one neighbor who complained about the noise from those engines. The city recently put in new metal cords and large blocks of stone to fortify that back entrance, keeping the illegal vehicles out.

As it negotiated the deal, the city asked the WPCA to keep mowing the roundabout, Levine said. The WPCA agreed.

Taking back the acre of land near the back entrance will ensure that the WPCA doesn’t build there, noted Holbrook. Levine said it will give the city greater control over that entrance. Levine said he aims to keep that gate closed most of the time, though the city will have the flexibility to open it in an emergency, he said.

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posted by: abg22 on February 18, 2013  1:32pm

Good to see more reporting on this issue. It would be nice if the City Plan Commission could seek absolute clarity on whether this land swap, or the GNHWPCA expansion more generally, would in any way inhibit the establishment of the Harborside Trail greenway. It would be tragic to have our hands tied by hastily approving the expansion proposal and be forced to route the harborside trail along Woodward Avenue the way Farmington Canal Phase IV is planned to be routed along Olive Street. The CPC will be considering the expansion proposal at this month’s meeting (on 2/20), for those who are interested.

posted by: LynneB on February 19, 2013  10:59am

Thanks Independent for covering this topic.  The sewer plant wants to expand its site to reduce raw sewage in our rivers when it rains by pumping more water more quickly to East Shore. The city must approve their site review plan before the city plan commission 2/20/13 in order for the sewer plant to proceed with applying for the rest of their permits from the state. The land swap is needed to move this plan forward. Last month city plan commission tabled the site review plan to refer this land swap deal to the Board of Aldermen.  This month city plan commission will move it forward without aldermanic approval for the land swap (they haven’t met yet). The public has not been allowed to speak at the site plan review presentations but they are allowed to submit letters. The public has many unanswered questions and concerns such as, is this costly expansion really the best plan for our city to reduce raw sewage in our rivers? It will only reduce the raw sewage in the river problem by 26% after it completes phase I (in 5 years).  But, the good news for the sewer plant is that it will establish a “cash flow” for further work to come in our future. Are there alternatives that cost less to build, create local jobs, clean our waters and reduce energy costs? Yes.  We have tried unsuccessfully to meet with the sewer plant and city of New Haven since last November in order to have meaningful public participation per environmental justice law Public Act 08-94.  We understand that Mr. Paolillo is chairman/vice chairman of the sewer board for the last 20? years and is also the alderman from the district where the sewer plant is.  Last summer our mayor’s office told us that Mr. Paolillo was also representing the city’s interest in the sewer plant’s permit application process to reduce raw sewage in the rivers. Isn’t this a conflict of interest? Where’s the meaningful public participation?