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May , 2008


April 16, 2008

Saving the Farm

The New Haven skyline seen from the Gilbert Avenue farm. Photo/Sharon Bass

By Sharon Bass

The New York developer who for years fought the town to build 72 homes on the Maselli Farm -- and triumphed in court in '06 -- decided over a year ago to scratch the project, after all, because of the weakening real-estate market.

That was good news to neighbors of the Gilbert Avenue farm. But delayed news. They say they only recently learned that the developer backed out and are trying, again, to rescue the farm to keep it in its natural state. (Click here for background story.)

“Now that I’m finding out that this is over a year old, it would have been nice of the town to tell us the deal had fallen through and the land was now available,” said Bill Burns, president of the Dunbar Hill Civic Association. “We could have started the process for open space sooner.”

Norman Greenberg, vice president of Pleasantville, N.Y.-based Baker Residential, the developer, said a decision was made more than a year ago to give up on the subdivision because of the soft market. “We have a number of sites we’re sitting on and we didn’t want to sit on all of them,” while waiting for the market to turn, he said.

Councilman Mike Colaiacovo, who represents the 7th District where the farm is, said he recently learned that Baker pulled out. “I was very excited for the neighborhood,” he said.

Burns said he had been asking Mayor Craig Henrici since last fall about the disposition of the subdivision. Hamden land-use commissions had denied Baker’s project in 2006. The developer then took the town to court where it got a favorable ruling. The plan seemed to be a go.

“Henrici was questioned by us and others [at a Dunbar Hill meeting in October 2007] as to the negotiations with Baker. We kept pressing it and Henrici would just keep saying, ‘Things are looking better and they are looking better than they were a year ago,’” said Burns. “He said he couldn’t talk about it. This was right before the election.”

Baker never purchased the land, which is still owned by the Maselli family, who could not be reached for comment. Henrici does not return messages from the HDN.

The civic association and other neighbors opposed to the farm being developed (they also fought the new middle school from being built there) presented their case at the Natural Resources & Open Space Commission’s March 26 meeting. Burns said the Maselli Farm is now on the commission’s list of desirable lands to acquire for open space.

“I’m happy and looking forward to trying to strike a deal between the Masellis and the state and the town to purchase that land,” said Burns. “It’s the last vestige of pristine land in the southern part of the town.”

Like others, he said he wants just open space and farming. “No ball fields. No schools. Open space. Sit on a bench and look at the New Haven harbor and skyline. The only place you can see it clearly [in Hamden] is from the top part of the Maselli land,” said Burns.

Assistant Town Planner Dan Kops said he believes he first learned of Baker pulling out some time last year. And he said he’s “not aware of any interest in the property.”

“I heard they weren’t going to do it. I don’t know if they sent something in writing or not. I don’t think they did,” said Kops.

But, he said, Baker didn’t have to give the town notification -- not for five years.

“By state law, developers have five years to complete [the infrastructure, but not necessarily the homes], and if they haven’t done anything in five years, then it can be declared null and void,” the assistant planner said. “They don’t have to contact the town if they’re not doing the project. There’s nothing to force them to.”

“I sort of wish the market was strong enough so we could rationalize doing it,” said Greenberg. “I think it’s a terrific project that would be good for the neighborhood. Good for the town. When you bring in new housing in a neighborhood of that type, it’s going to raise the values of the [existing] homes. It has great views. It has sewer and water. I mean it’s a terrific development.”

March 11, 2008

Police Station Squabble

Councilman Colaiacovo deals with an emotional room. Photo/Sharon Bass

By Sharon Bass

At the Dunbar Hill Civic Association’s monthly meeting last night, the neighborhood was barely discussed. Same with the upcoming town budget, which was on the agenda. Instead the time and emotion went to the location of the new police headquarters. Some insisted it was a done deal. Others weren’t quite buying it.

7th District Councilman Mike Colaiacovo moderated the group of 16 residents including three councilmen, answering questions and at times motioning for peace when things got hot.

Marianna D’Albis, an opponent of the administration’s plan to build the police station attached to Memorial Town Hall, called the site choice “a campaign issue.” Mayor Henrici announced the decision shortly before the November election. D’Albis said the mayor, his confidante Councilman Matt Fitch and Council Prez Al Gorman chose the site.

Police Commissioner Meg Nowacki shot back: “You’d better be careful who you name."

“If you have an agenda and you don’t like [the site], that’s one thing,” Councilman Jack Kennelly, a member of the Town Building Committee which is overseeing the police project, said to D’Albis. “But look at the needs of the police station. It’s so frustrating to hear statements like yours.”

Kennelly similarly challenged Sarah Morrill, of the Republican Town Committee, when she too expressed concerns about the chosen location.

Morrill, D’Albis and others asked if traffic studies at Whitney and Dixwell were done before the site was picked. If the police building could instead be built with the new fire headquarters on the Dadio Farm. If other sites were considered. If other sites could be considered.

But Kennelly said it’s a done deal. “The charge [of the TBC] was not to reinvent the wheel and start from day one,” he said. “Our charge is the construction.”

In fact. A resident-elect member was kicked off the committee after her first meeting because she voiced opposition to the location. (Click here to read Michele Helou’s story.)

“I don’t think it’s up to the public where it goes,” said Michele Mastropetre, a civic association officer. “It’s up to the experts, like the police. They’re the ones who know what functions and functions best.”

“Then they should make all the decisions,” Jack McCray quipped. “Why are we sitting here?”

Colaiacovo made a motion to cancel April’s civic association meeting so folks could attend the public hearing on the 2008-2009 town budget on April 8 at 7 p.m., and the school tab the next evening at 7, both at Memorial Town Hall. No one disagreed.


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