Bakalar: Town still in early stages of exploring potential property sales

I wanted to prepare an update for the community on the potential sale of town owned property in Trumbull. There has been a great deal of information circulating, some of which is accurate, some of which is not. Given that I am the person at Town Hall most closely involved with the potential sale of municipal property, I felt it was important to lay out for the community where we are in the process of considering any sale and related facts.

In order to provide some context, approximately 24% of Trumbull's grand list is tax-exempt (not including roads, highways or State owned property)-high for a community with no hospitals or universities. Given that Trumbull is developed largely as a residential community, this reality places an additional tax burden on residential homeowners. At the same time, I know that Trumbull residents value their open space and parkland. Trumbull has more parkland per capita than almost any other community in Connecticut. Just this week, we are finalizing the acquisition of 8.2 acres of deed restricted open space to Trumbull. This acreage was most recently owned by the State of Connecticut, and at one time was considered for road and highway expansion.

Most residents would acknowledge in order to maintain the excellent schools and high quality of services Trumbull offers into the future, while holding the line on taxes, Trumbull will need to grow its grand list. To that end, we are focusing on new strategies for underperforming properties to realize higher tax yield. We are supporting the expansion of existing businesses and the location of new business to Trumbull. We are building our Village Districts. We are also assessing our municipally held property for need and usefulness into the future. The Town of Trumbull has acquired and sold municipal property throughout its history.

To date, six properties have been discussed for potential sale. Initially, the Town was examining five properties. The sites under consideration are: 6254 Main Street (former Long Hill School), 23 Priscilla Place (current Senior Center), 45 Berkshire Avenue, 5892 Main Street (Town Hall Annex), 7115 Main Street (former Wagner Tree Farm). The addition of the VFW property at l Veteran's Place, came only after several of the Veteran's organizations using the site approached the Town seeking to be relieved of the lease. It appears from the information I have, there may be some internal miscommunication among those Veteran's groups. If they choose to remain in their lease, the Town has no interest in the sale of that property. If the Veteransgroups choose to walk away from the property, the Town may consider the sale again in the future. If at any point in the future that site were to be considered for sale, the Town could seek to retain the pond area for resident use.

Further, many of the structures are old, require extensive repair, are expensive to operate, are not handicap accessible or offer space that does not fit the functional needs of the Town. Holding on to outdated, inefficient and functionally obsolete property that produces no benefit to the grand list begs the question of why? Especially since the Town can and will seek to control the redevelopment of each site. The Town can reject any offer out of hand if they feel the potential purchaser has a redevelopment plan that is undesirable for the area. The Town can deed restrict all or a portion of a property as part of any deal. The Town can protect facades and other building features as part of any deal. The Town Council has full authority to approve or reject any potential sale. Land Use

Boards have full review and approval of any plans proposed for a site in the future. The thorough vetting of any purchases and proposals will allow us to focus on the good of the whole, while maintaining deep care and consideration for those residents most directly affected by the sale of a property.

It is important to note, the Town may sell some, none or all of these properties over time. We are still in the early stages of exploring any sale. There are no specific development plans in play or looming sales on any of the properties at this time. Any information circulating to that effect is false and without merit.

The Town had professional appraisals done on all properties except the VFW property in order to ascertain market value based on certain reuse scenarios. The Town is in a position to realize 8,000,000 - 10,000,000 from property sales, approximately $600,000 in new tax revenue annually and a potential reduction in operating expenses.

Additionally, title searches have been conducted on all six properties. All titles are clear with no deed restrictions, Any information circulating to the contrary is false. In early April, a request for Broker Services was issued. Five responses were received and are under review. We anticipate selecting broker representation in June. To be clear, no property sale will move forward on any site without a relocation plan for any existing use that is still operating at the site. Another point of clarification, none of the sites currently operate as open space. Several of the sites are candidates for adaptive reuse given the age of the structure or well suited for a use similar to what currently exists at the site, having a minimal impact on the neighborhood or character of the area.

Assertions I read recently in an opinion piece suggesting the Town should build a community center on a site we already own as a reason to hold onto one of these properties, fails to recognize the exhaustive exercise the Town has undertaken to vet these sites for such a use already. This assertion further fails to recognize the commitment on the part of the Community Center Building Committee to find a site that is fully accessible with extensive adjacencies and synergies in keeping with best practices for economic and community development. Locating municipal uses such as a potential community center in a one off location is outdated thinking and not the type of planning approach used in communities of choice around the country.

There are many more details site by site that I will gladly share with any interested stakeholder. I am available at any point to speak with folks in my office or another location during the day, before and after hours and on weekends. Please feel free to contact me at 203-452-5043 or rbakalar(a) at any point. I have a strong and well-documented history of being accessible, open and candid,

In closing, it is a privilege to work in such an outstanding and well-run community. Having had boots on the ground in a number of Connecticut towns and cities over the past 30 years, I experience Trumbull as an active and attractive Town with wonderful people, especially the young people l have met. At a time, when things are changing in Connecticut and around the country in terms of what folks seek in a community of choice, Trumbull is well positioned to stand out in Connecticut.