To the Editor of Patch:
We hope that the people of Rocky Hill will vote YES on Question #1 on November 6 for an unusual proposal -- a referendum that will actually save them money. The referendum was approved, unanimously, in bipartisan fashion, by the Town Council.
A "YES" vote on Referendum Question #1 will create a fund; it will be used to buy and preserve some of our little remaining open space and farmland. No money will be spent until some land is made available by a current farmer or owner. Also, according to the Council, no lands will be taken by eminent domain.
Purchasing open space and farmland, or purchasing the development rights, will serve to reduce future residential development. A long-term savings will result because residential housing clusters cost the town much more than they bring in through taxes. In Connecticut, according to two recent studies (The Green Valley Institute Partnership -- UConn and UMass), a residence costs a town $1.14 for every $1.00 it brings in.
Private homes bring the need for the town to supply many costly services: Educate new school children; Collect trash and recycling; Construct water drainage infrastructure; Repair storm damage; Develop and maintain roadways; Collect leaves and branches; Remove snow and ice after storms; Provide regular police and fire services, etc., etc., etc.
Buying the land or the (less expensive) development rights is a very effective tool that helps to control the tax mill rate. That is why Glastonbury, Avon, Farmington, Berlin, Wethersfield and others consistently purchase land -- they understand that taxpayers will save serious tax dollars throughout future years.
We really love our students. But the fact is that each student in 2012-2013 costs about $13,000 per year, and, in current dollars, about $169,000 per K-12 school career, even after our School Board's valiant efforts to keep the costs down. Fewer additional students will save taxpayers millions over time.
Referendum Question #1): It allows the town to borrow up to $10 million at some time in the future to buy farms or open space lands. No referendum money will be spent until the Council actually buys land or the development rights to land. Any spent referendum dollars should bring to us matching funds (from private land trusts, CT matching grants, federal matching grants, etc., thus, typically, saving Rocky Hill about 40% of the purchase price. Our money thereby becomes significantly leveraged.
A very important side note here -- This referendum, because of its limitation on available funds, will bring in very few properties. Housing development contractors will always be able to offer landowners much more money than will the town. Consequently, only those very few land owners who love farming and who love green open spaces and thus would not ever sell their land to developers are the few noble souls who would take less in order to protect their ideals. They won't sell out to contractors under any conditions. The contractors (with their big buck offers) will probably get nearly all of the other lands anyway and, consequently, all those construction jobs that would be created. Thus, the Referendum shouldn't threaten construction jobs at all.
Help control our tax burden; please vote "YES" on #1 to permit buying some future lands that are zoned for housing or farming. Also, resist the building everywhere of new apartment buildings or residential developments, thus avoiding costly new increases in the school-age population.
Finally, let's keep our nice small-town character intact, through preserving the last few green spaces and farmland. This is actually our final chance to save, in perpetuity, the last few remnants of our rural heritage. Remember, the economic times will, in a while, change for the better -- they always have. Once the land is gone, however, it is gone forever.
Susan and Wendell Coogan, Rocky Hill