Open Space

On Jan. 23, the Town Meeting considered and discussed the purchase of approximately 24.10 acres of open space offered for sale by Farm River Estates, LLC in the amount of $4,300,000 and accept a donation of approximately 18.62 acres of open space from Farm River Estates, LLC, resulting in a net acquisition of open space in the approximate amount of 42.72 acres. The matter has now been adjourned to a town referendum, which will be held on Jan. 31 at the High Plains Community Center gymnasium between the hours of 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

It is now up to you to decide through referendum whether we should proceed with this purchase. Open space is a limited commodity and acquiring open space is an important decision that we make as a community. As the last large tracts of land in our Town are developed, the opportunity to preserve the rural character of our Town that makes it a charming New England community is lost. I believe that it is our responsibility to preserve our Town's character for future generations.

This property has been considered a priority parcel for open space in the Town's Plan of Conservation and Development. It is located in the center of our Town off of Lambert Road and Tyler City Road. In addition to preserving the Town's character, this property protects the local watershed of Indian River, provides a habitat for a wide-assortment of wildlife, provides for low impact recreational activity such as cross-country skiing and hiking and provides for scenic views and vistas.

Many opponents to this open space purchase are arguing that we do not have an appraisal. The developer is offering to sell the Town its building lots.

The appraisal that the Town obtained valued a building lot on the subject parcel at $410,000. The developer currently has seven approved building lots on which he can begin building single family homes. The Board of Selectmen went through the exercise of reviewing this matter and concluded that the developer would likely obtain approvals for an additional 4 lots, bringing the total lots in the area offered for sale to 11 building lots. Since we are buying lots, we multiplied those 11 lots by the appraised value of $410,000. Under this analysis, the total value of the combined lots exceeds the amount that the Town will be paying for this land.

In considering this acquisition, we must recognize that there is a difference between investment value and market value. By purchasing this property, we are protecting the character of our Town which has an intrinsic value to us as residents that cannot be valued by a professional appraiser. I believe that this proposal is in the best interest of our Town and I encourage all residents to vote at the referendum on Jan.31 and cast your vote.

Sewer Extension

On Jan.18, the Orange WPCA voted to approve the extension of sewers to the property now known as Sunrise Hill Estate for the purpose of constructing an age-restricted housing. The WPCA will now begin to work on an agreement with Derby. The developer is payng all of the costs associated with the extension of this sewer line. As this project progresses, I will keep you updated.

Power Line

On Jan. 16 we held a meeting at the High Plains Community Center with representatives from the utility company, the Siting Council and area residents affected by the utility company's activities along the power lines that run through our Town. I am working to address everyone's concerns on this issue and I share those concerns.

I have instructed our town attorney to investigate this matter. I will pursue every avenue possible to minimize the impact of this construction on our Town's residents. In the immediate future, our State Representatives and State Senator will propose legislation to releive all property owners from liability for any injuries or damages resulting from this construction. I encourage all residents affected by this construction to forward me a written statement listing your concerns so that I can address them. Please forward your statements to my attention at the Town Hall, 617 Orange Center Road, Orange, CT 06477.

Holiday Spirit Alive

This past holiday season proved that our town is filled with generosity and good will. I want to commend everyone for showing the true spirit of the season by giving. The Orange Community Services office received an abundance of food and gifts to make the holiday season more enjoyable for those residents with less.

I want to encourage all residents to keep that spirit alive throughout the year. Donations can be made at any time of the year during the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Orange Community Services office located at the High Plains Community Center.

Pan-Mass Challenge

Our town attorney, Vin Marino, has registered to ride again in the Pan-Mass Challenge, which is a 200-mile bike ride to raise money for the Jimmy Fund and the Dana Farber Institute. There are over 4,300 riders participating in this event from around the world. The ride will begin on Aug 4 in Sturbridge, Mass. The first day's ride ends in Bourne, Mass and then continues the next day to Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Last year, this event raised over $25,000,000 to help fight the battle against cancer and Vin personally raised $10,000. If anyone is interested in riding, you can register online at www.pmc.org. Registration is expected to close by Feb.1.

Municipal Taxes

Please remember that all real estate and property taxes must be paid to the tax collector by Feb. 1 in order to avoid any interest or penalties.

Payment can be made in person at the tax collector's office between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or mailed to the tax collector at 617 Orange Center Road, Orange, CT 064677. Payments received after 3 p.m. will not be processed until the following day.

Jim Zeoli is Orange first selectman.