The administration’s plan to sell multiple town properties exposes a fundamental misunderstanding of their value. Managing our community property is not about what we can get for it, but about what it is worth to us.
These properties give us open space and office space for recreation and town business. The Town Hall Annex is an historic building that adds small-town charm to our municipal center. The Veteran’s Hall is dedicated to those who serve our country. The Board of Education has an auditorium for school events and town meetings, and several acres of sports fields. The Senior Center also has an auditorium and meeting rooms, and social service offices used by our neighbors. Trumbull received the Nature Center at a discount by agreeing that it would remain open space, and it has been a destination for class trips for years.
These properties are all in established neighborhoods. This is our land, and we should think carefully before selling it off.
But we do not seem to be thinking carefully, or at least not consistently. Competent town planning requires consistency, and selling these lands is not consistent with this administration’s stated goals.
If we need more parking and office space for Town Hall, then don’t sell the Annex, with parking and office space we already own and could expand. If we need a community center, then build it on land we already own; don’t spend $1.6 million to purchase and destroy four private homes. Certainly, don’t make the Board of Education spend $6 million on a 20-year lease if we can save money by repairing the building (for a quarter of that amount) and still keep the ball fields and auditorium.
These sales raise the question of whether a coherent, long-term plan for Trumbull exists at all. The claim that Trumbull can control the development of these properties may be sincere, but it is naive. Economic realities usually trump good intentions.
These properties are in residential zones. Whomever spends money to buy five or 10 acres and demolish existing buildings will want cluster homes, condominiums or zoning changes allowing commercial buildings so that they can maximize return on their investment.
Whether on Main Street, the Nichols Historic District or Katz Pond, such development will permanently change the character of our town. Once these properties are gone, they are gone for good. Leading Trumbull into the future does not require ignoring its past.
When these sales come before our Town Council for approval I hope they will be rejected. While some need repairs, those costs are small compared to the cost of replacing what we lose, as well as the increased burdens on our schools, public services and traffic congestion. I also hope everyone will contact their Council representatives with a consistent message: Trumbull is not for sale. We can continue to live in a vibrant community, but not if we sell it off one piece at a time.