Voters urged to purchase farm

For the first time since a majority of the historic Meadowbrook Farm went on the market, Orange residents will have the opportunity to decide whether they want to purchase this pristine parcel for open space. Unfortunately, not all of the original 66 acres can be purchased, as 20 of those acres have been earmarked for development in the very near future.

Originally, all 66 acres were part of a plan for extensive residential development. However, Farm River Estates LLC, has agreed to give the town of Orange one last opportunity to acquire the majority of the parcel. The parcel has been on the town's priority list for purchase of open space since 1967. Orange has now been given a second chance to preserve this pristine area and this time we hope the residents will pursue this unique opportunity.

The parcel, now known as Farm River Estates sits smack in the center of the community. When one leaves the center of town and drives down Tyler City Road you can proceed straight or turn left at Lambert Road, but either way, you enjoy an uninterrupted vista of open space, ponds, old stone walls, vegetation, and fields marked with strands of trees. All of us, at one time or another have slowed our vehicles to see cows, goats, and sheep grazing, as well as to view ducks, wild turkeys and deer. It is also not unusual to have the opportunity to see young calves stumbling around in an attempt to get their legs moving. These historic rural views and vistas will be lost forever once the property is developed into huge expensive homes with paved driveways and access roads.

The farm dates back to the 1600s from the Rev. Samuel Andrew, who was one of the founders of Yale to Gov. Robert Treat; Merwin Andrew in the 1800s to Wellington, Richard and James Ewen in the 21st century. The importance of preserving this parcel should not be underestimated. The state of Connecticut values open space and farmland preservation so much that they offer grants to towns to assist in land acquisition. Additionally, state Rep. Paul Davis (D), Orange has stated there is a push among legislators in Hartford to dramatically increase open space funding this legislative session. Orange will be a top priority for state assistance to fund this purchase of open space.

The argument that the Town should not pay more than appraised value is trite and has been used before to block the purchase of this parcel. It illustrates the lack of knowledge of what the market will bear as well as a lack of understanding of the value of our natural resources.

Several years ago the same argument was made when the town could have purchased the property for $3 million at a time when the market price was $3.5 million. The subsequent delay and the escalating price of real estate has now shown that the failure to purchase the full 66 acres several years ago was a mistake.

Already our ecosystems have been degraded due to overdevelopment. An enormous strain has been put on Indian River, Indian Lake and Long Island Sound, due to the ever-increasing amount of impervious surfaces. Adjacent subdivisions have already been developed including Hampton Close and the DeFeo property. First Selectman Jim Zeoli has said he would like to create a stormwater detention system on the property to ease the flooding already being experienced around Indian River.

The voters of Orange need to decide whether they want to preserve the very views and tranquil scenery that make them love Orange. The town was founded as a farming community centuries ago and now we have the opportunity to retain a small piece of our roots. As Mark Twain said, "We need to take care of the land as they are not making anymore." Once it is gone, it's gone.

Vote in favor of preserving this parcel.