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Open Space Plan -- minutes of ad-hoc committee

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The 1st meeting to the RTM Open Space Plan Review Committee (OSRC) was held on Tuesday, May19, 2015 at 4 PM in the Gisborne Meeting Room.
Present: Peter Berg, Chairman, Phil Dodson, Don Hamilton, Paul Settelmeyer, and Carol Zarrilli.
Peter Berg called meeting to order at 4:01 PM. An agenda had distributed by email in advance of the meeting.

Organization Matters: The committee members briefly introduced themselves. Names, email addresses, telephone numbers, and RTM Committee memberships and Districts they represent were circulated. Two members of OSRC were absent: Ellen Brennan-Gavin and Steve Meskers.

Related Material for the Meeting: Documents prepared in advance of the meeting by Peter were circulated:
Plan and Mission Document for OSRC (which includes a copy of RTM April 13 Motion on Open Space Plan); Open Space Math; and Comparison of State and Greenwich Open Space Plan. Carol circulated a summary of GR. Golf Course Valuation. Phil had emailed a 23 page model conservation easement put out by CT Land Conservation Council (CTLCC). Paul had circulated data on land use in Town of Fairfield. All members have read the 2015 Town of Greenwich Open Space Plan (OSP) and the Q and A Addendum to the GOSP.
1. Peter opened the discussion with comment that the purpose of the committee is to conduct fact finding relating to the OSP, conduct discussions with Town Departments involved in the OSP, and educate and inform RTM Committees on the Plan. Purpose is not to rewrite the Plan.
2. This is a time constrained committee and following 3 meetings we plan to meet with Town employees and GOSP related representatives to discuss issues. Questions will be sent to different individuals in advance of the meetings. Peter hopes to conclude committee meetings by August 1.
3. Peter opened a discussion comparing goals of State OSP (SOSP) verses Greenwich OSP (GOSP). State goal is 21%, achieved 10% by the State and 11% by the towns. Greenwich’s Town Goal is 21%, both plans goals being under the category of currently protected. Understanding the categories of currently protected, currently restricted, unprotected-public, and unprotected private becomes an educational priority. For more info on categories, see page 37 in GOSP. Other points: SOSP is update every 5 years, GOSP update every 10 years. SOSP has annual update to the Legislature, apparently no requirement of periodic updates on GOSP. SOSP proactively identifies properties of exception value, GOSP outlines a property scoring system (Appendix B to GOSP), but Town does not plan to score properties. . Peter noted that by State regulation, State Plan is an addendum to Greenwich Plan.
4. Peter will arrange a conference call with Graham Stevens at State DEEP. Discussion of list of proposed questions. Don will join Peter on the call. Report back at next meeting.
5. Carol walked us thru the 2 page chart on valuation of Greenwich Golf Courses.
6. Phil commented on model CTLCC model easement, relating this to the type of easement proposed in the draft GOSP. Possible significant consequences. Members will read and review before next meeting.
7. Discussion of questions for following Depts : Conservation, Planning & Zoning, First Selectman, Law Dept, Public Works, Tax Assessor, and Board of Ed. Also reviewed Qs for Land Trust. Peter will edit list of questions and recirculate.
General Observation: Town may want to broaden strict interpretation of Open Space and deal with reality verses legal definitions. Committee with be discussing, reviewing, and summarizing points on this issue.

Meeting adjourned at 5:36 PM Next meeting June 4 at 4 PM.
Respectively Submitted: Paul Settelmeyer, Acting Secretary 0522


The 2nd meeting to the RTM Open Space Plan Review Committee (OSRC) was held on Tuesday, June 2, 2015 at 4 PM in the Gisborne Meeting Room.

Present: Peter Berg, Chairman, Phil Dodson, Paul Settelmeyer, and Carol Zarrilli. Three members of OSRC were absent: Ellen Brennan-Gavin, Don Hamilton and Steve Meskers
Peter Berg called meeting to order at 4:01 PM. Minutes of our May 19 meeting were reviewed and approved.

1. Reviewed email and attached questions that Peter sent to Town Department. Peter reported that he had not received responses and members requested he resend the request with a response date of June 8. The responses will be reviewed at our June 9 meeting and will help formulate agendas for the meeting we plan to hold on Thursday, June 25, with stakeholders who were involved in drafting the Town’s OSP
2. Peter summarized the conversations he had with State and DEEP Officials on open space planning and green initiatives. He will prepare brief written summary or outlined Q and A of areas discussed.
3. Members discussed anticipated goals of the Committee. Peter stated that his key objective is to develop factual data on which the committee members agree. Members also want to develop a clearer understanding of the terms protected, unprotected, and restricted and how these classifications may related to the 21% open space goal in the Plan. Other issues under review: a. Logic for the 21% Greenwich open space goal set forth in the Plan, since it appears that State is looking for a municipal goal of 11% and an added State goal of 10%; b. Is it in the Town’s best interest to have easement or deed restrictions placed on Town owned land (Goal 1-A-task A-1), and if so, should the easements or deed restrictions be held by a third party (Goal 1-B-task B-1, and page 41, 1st paragraph, last sentence)?; c. It has been stated that the CC does not plan to score properties, which would appear to be part of Goal 1-A-task A-3. If no scoring, how will prioritization be done?
4. Additional areas under discussion. Tax incentive (Goal 1-C-Task C-3); uncertain if there are these local, state, or federal tax incentives…need to clarify role of Town. Would welcome details on expected use of regulation(s) to achieve Plan goals.
5. Currently in general agreement of the Goal 2 objectives. Members will review and prepare comments for June 9th meeting.
6. Phil distributed copy (later provided link) of February 28, 2015, Greenwich Time article on the Town’s OSP. Peter asked all members to read the article before the next meeting.

Meeting adjourned at 5:05 PM Next meeting June 9 at 4 PM.

Respectfully Submitted: Paul Settelmeyer, Acting Secretary


The 3rd meeting to the RTM Open Space Plan Review Committee (OSRC) was held on Tuesday, June 9, 2015 at 4 PM in the Gisborne Meeting Room.
Present: Peter Berg, Chairman, Phil Dodson, Don Hamilton, Paul Settelmeyer, and Carol Zarrilli. Two members of OSRC were absent: Ellen Brennan-Gavin and Steve Meskers
Peter Berg called meeting to order at 4:03 PM. Minutes of our June meeting were reviewed and approved.

1. Denise Savageau has requested copies of our minutes. Peter is sending her copy of our minutes when they are approved. Paul will contact the Town Clerk’s office to review how and where to post minutes.
2. Peter advised that he had received responses to our emails with questions from three parties to the Town’s Open Space Plan. The emails from the three responding parties will be discussed. Email from Denise Savageau indicating that due to work loads, a response would not be available until July 9th. Members agreed that the three responding parties would be contacted to set up discussion meetings for June 25. As additions responses are received, review meetings with the responding parties will be set
3. Land Trust Responses: Reviewed June 9 email from Ginny Gwynn. Informative response on land acquisitions since 2002. Questions on total acres LT controls via conservation easement or ownership and if acres are all in Greenwich. Will want to discuss total cost of donating land to the LT. Members accept that LT is an active party in OS Planning, but need to understand need and logic for LT to possibly hold conservation easements on Town properties.
4. Town Assessor: Reviewed June 8 email from Lauren Elliott. Plan to discuss existing practices for assessing golf courses, but acknowledge that practice may be the result of negotiated deal with all of the clubs several years ago. Would like to discuss tax policies relating to lot sales of current golf course land. Would like to discuss tax policies on excess land on large residential properties. Note referral to P & Z on question asking for information on residential subdivisions like Conyers Farms with deed restricted large lots and their possible relationship to OS Planning. On June 25 also plan to discuss the involvement of the Assessor in developing the OSP.
5. Planning and Zoning: Reviewed June 5 email from Katie DeLuca. Peter reported that he is working on an excel spread sheet summarizing the 26 pages of subdivision applications since 2002. His summary will show acres and set-asides. This will be a discussion item for the June 25 meeting. Katie reported that P & Z Commission had approved the OSP as consistent with the POCD. Members accept that Dept is busy with three major plans and normal business so won’t have time to revise regulations to promote open space; the committee appreciates Katie’s timely response. An additional topic for discussion will be a request for lists of specific protected, unprotected, and restricted public and private land parcels, with acreage for each parcel.
6. Committee noted that responses have not been received to email questionnaires sent to BOE, CC, Schools, Public Works, and the Town attorney. Questions will be sent to Parks and Rec.
7. The committee noted the involvement in the OSP of the parties name in 3-6 above as well as the First Selectman. Discussed if entities such as the BET, Inland Wetlands, Flood and Erosion Control Board, were or should have been involved or asked for comment on the OSP. Last point to be reviewed after discussions with parties that we have sent questionnaires to.
8. Peter will contact Ginny Gwynn, Lauren Elliott, and Katie DeLuca to invite them to meet with the RTM OSP Review Committee on Thursday afternoon, June 25.

Meeting adjourned at 5:16 PM. Next meeting on June 25 at time to be determined.

Respectfully submitted: Paul Settelmeyer, Acting Secretary


The 4th meeting to the RTM Open Space Plan Review Committee (OSRC) was held on Thursday, June 25, 2015 at 1 PM in the Mazza Meeting Room.
Present: Peter Berg, Chairman, Phil Dodson, Don Hamilton, Paul Settelmeyer, Carol Zarrilli, and Ellen Brennan-Galvin. Guests will be mentioned as they joined the meeting.
Peter Berg called meeting to order at 1:04 PM. Minutes of our June 9 meeting were reviewed and approved.

Guests at 1:15 PM Denise Savageau, Bill Rutherford, Susie Baker (Conservation Commission)
1. Peter reviewed a summary chart dated June 24 reflecting open space additions since 2002 by category, acres added per year, and based upon historical averages, making some projections on possible additions over the next 10 years.
2. Bill commented on the background and impressive professional qualifications of members of the 2015 OSPC and Denise reviewed highlights of the 2015 Open Space Plan, as reflected in document “Presentation to P & Z, March 24, 2015” This is a summary document and sections were referred to during the afternoon meeting.
Guest at 1:30 PM Katie DeLuca (P & Z)
1. Katie had previously been given list of questions. Katie indicated that it is possible to provide list of land parcels according to color classifications on the legal size map in the 2015 OSP. Peter will follow-up with Denise and Katie to obtain lists by color code, focusing on list of Town owned restricted, protected, and unprotected properties.
2. It is anticipated that subdivision regulations will be updated, with one area of review being how open space is designated in a subdivision, another is the regulations for “conservation subdivisions”. Noted that P & Z works with the Conser. Com. and Wetland Agency to recommend the ideal location of open space in subdivisions. Question: how many of current land parcels are sub-dividable, with response that this is subject to many variables. Katie with get back to Peter with general estimate.
3. In a subdivision of a parcel, generally there is a 15% general set aside factor for open space, but can be satisfied by combination of set aside and easements.
4. Discussion of allowing developers to pay into fund in lieu of small scattered subdivisions set-asides, to allow Town to purchase larger open spaces. Practice permitted under State law.
Guests at: 2:10 PM Ginny Gwinn (Greenwich Land Trust) 2:15 Uriling Searle
1. Ginny made statement on goals of the Greenwich Land Trust. Trust acquires fee title to properties, controls open space rights via easements, and actively monitors and maintains parcels under its control. Question if GLT had traded or sold parcels it controls, answer that while it has done land swaps in the past of parcels it controls, it currently has a general policy against sales or exchange of properties it controls.
2. GLT discusses parcel acquisition or easement controls on parcels in all areas of Town. Discussions with parcel owners can take years and are done on a confidential basis. While negotiations are ongoing, information on specific parcels are strictly confidential. Small parcel abutting existing open space have conservation value.
3. GLA trust holds a conservation easement on the 62 acre Polo field at Conyers Farm, but none on any 10 acre parcels in the area generally defined as Conyers Farm.
4. General discussion of terms of public restricted and public protected. Babcock and Greenwich point are public restricted. OSP suggests opening discussion on moving properties like this to public protected. General question: Are there restrictive easements currently on any Town properties? Consensus response, no one had knowledge of any. Comment made that Roger Sherman and/or Grass Island may have some restrictions.
Guests at 3:00 PM: Lauren Elliott, Bob Shipman; Bill Finger, and Leslie Tarkington (Tax Assessors and BET)
1. Opening comment by Lauren that the Assessor Office acts on existing State and Town regulations regarding valuing real estate assets and does not set or establish policies relating land zoning or land use goals.
2. Discussion of valuation of golf courses. Value a function of the value of the physical improvements, site improvements, and land. Buildings and site improvement are taxed at rate higher than the open space value of fairways and woods.
3. Discussion of income tax and estate tax issues associated with charitable contributions of land parcels and or easements.
4. Bill noted that if the Town or other entity purchased development rights to any land parcel, it would involve a capital expenditure and a reduction in the Grand List assets and a reduction in annual real estate taxes, which would have to be off set with increase in taxes on remaining properties comprising the Grand List.
5. Discussion of PA490 Properties (forest and farm parcel classification) and Cemeteries (which do not pay property taxes)
6. Question to BET members: Were they involved in reviewing the OSP. Answer: No. Comments that there is need to consider benefits of additional protected open space verses possible reductions to the Grand List value. Additional discussion of comparative value(s) of additional development verses additional open space. Brief discussion of increase in cost of providing Town services to developed properties verse increase in real est taxes.
7. Discussion and questions on the OSP’s 21% Open Space Goal for the Town. State goal is 21%, composed of State goal of 10% and municipal goal of 11%. Current local per centages in Greenwich: 7.8% protected and 1.9% restricted. Peter reported that State wide, the State is at 80% of its 10% goal and municipalities are, on average, at 68% of the 11% goal (all numbers as of 12/2013). Denise stated that 21% goal was not her proposal but rather set by the Open Space Committee. Several committee members commented that OS Plan’s 21% Town Goal is not CT’s recommended share for municipal open space acreage. State recommends an 11% municipal goal.
Guests at 3:50 PM: John Wayne Fox, Esq. and Eugene McLaughlin, Esq. (law department)
1. Discussion: Babcock property. Permitted uses, if a deed restriction was placed on the property, would depend on the terms of the deed restriction. Denise said Babcock is an important watershed and should be protect as it had been the object of numerous offers from developers.
2. Discussion of process and rational for have either the Conservation Commission or the Greenwich Land Trust hold deed restrictions or easements on Town Property (OSP page 40, 1st paragraph, last sentence and Goal 1, Objective B, Task B-1). Need for additional clarification of this point. Possible conflict of interest in having CC holds restrictions on Town Property. Denise agreed to review this point.
3. Discussion: If don’t place deed restrictions on Town properties, would the MI (municipal improvement) process be a sufficient check and balance to any property improvement on Town owned land. If confident in the MI process, possible cost saving (legal and environmental review) which would be incurred in placing easements on Town land parcels
4. Brief Discussion of CT Statue 7- 131(n), dealing with comparable replacement land parcels. Decision that this topic beyond the scope of RTMOS Committee.
5. Brief discussion: factors involved in overriding or reversing deed restriction. Legal issues appear to be unique to each case. Note: that deed restrictions can be worded to permit uses for Community need, while protecting OS.
General discussion
1. Comments on Greenwich Golf Club selling off 4 one acre building lots over the past few years.
2. OSP references possible OS scoring of larger public and private parcel. Request for names of Towns that have done this. No names of Towns that have done this were provided. Denise will research Towns with scoring.
3. Along the Merritt Parkway, a parkway with a Federal historical designation, there is open space on the north and sides of the highway. This is not color coded on the overlay map. Could all or a portion the open space along the Merritt assume to be open space?
4. Willing Seller: Denise defined a Willing Seller as one who is willing to work with the Town, which may require more negotiating time than a typical market sale.
Motion to adjourn at 4:59 PM. Next meeting: To be determined.

Respectively submitted: Paul Settelmeyer, Secretary 06292015