Letter: Herbst and Town Council let the town down

The Republican majority of the Town Council voted Monday to start buying up a healthy Trumbull neighborhood, disrupting people’s lives in the process, all for an unknown purpose and days after the community got information that a deal was in the works.

This vote—despite First Selectman Tim Herbst’s attempt to argue otherwise—was unprecedented in modern Trumbull history.

Herbst and the Council Republicans got it wrong. The vote—to assemble land for a vaguely defined “municipal campus”—will likely damage property values. It could trigger a wider selloff. It could damage the Pequonnock watershed and add traffic problems. It might even contribute to cascading blight.

None of these possibilities was much of a concern to the Republicans, who listened for two hours to residents from the area asking the Council to pay attention to their concerns, not just Herbst’s. The Republicans mostly sat silent.

Council Republicans let their constituents down Monday. More, they put a whole section of town at risk. And they did it without knowing the exact purpose of a $1 million-plus land acquisition.

They just took Herbst at his word.

Specifically, the vote was to negotiate for two houses near the intersection of Church Hill Road, Old Church Hill and South Edgewood. All are across from Town Hall and the library. Herbst said the land—bordering the Pequonnock Valley—might be used for parking, or trail access, or possibly a senior center. Two more houses, and maybe a third, are being targeted.

Herbst selectively cited sections of the 2014 Plan of Conservation and Development, but the sections he quoted mostly weren’t relevant to the acquisition of a functioning residential neighborhood. Herbst noted that the POCD identifies three main community hubs. He noted that the POCD calls for preservation of open space. He noted that the plan calls for connections among the town’s hiking trails. Two of those three objectives are not relevant. It’s self-evident that the town has three nodes. Acquiring property for parking or a senior center is unrelated to open space. The third POCD objective Herbst cited—connecting trails and adding spurs—might apply. But as a member of the Planning & Zoning Commission, I was one of the authors of the POCD. Herbst was not. So I know the intent better than he does, and that intention does not contemplate adding a trail access point down a 300-foot cliff.

Herbst neglected to mention the main POCD recommendation regarding municipal facilities: Create a comprehensive facilities plan. That hasn’t happened. He also neglected to say, until Democratic Councilman Jason Marsh pointed it out, that the POCD recommends the east side of Church Hill stay residential. Instead, he conflated three unrelated objectives to push his plan forward. I guess it worked.

From day one the first selectman has preferred as an operating style moving forward without appropriate and complete community notification or consensus. On Monday, the town saw a stark example of that.