Published May 19. 2011 4:00AM
East Lyme - The town reached an agreement with the nonprofit Trust for Public Land Wednesday to work jointly to buy 301 acres of open space near Darrow Pond from Webster Bank for $4.15 million.
Announced Wednesday at the Board of Selectmen meeting, the agreement calls for the trust to negotiate the purchase of the property, but the town must approve at referendum a bond to complete the sale.
The $4.15 million bond is part of the town's five-year debt service plan.
The referendum will likely take place in September. The trust, which will do all the necessary title searches and legal work for the purchase, has until Oct. 31 to acquire the property from the Waterbury-based Webster Bank.
The price tag is below fair market value, based on an independent appraisal done in November.
The land, which was once slated to become an 18-hole golf course and a 600-unit housing development, will now be conserved for drinking water and watershed protection as well as for hiking and wildlife viewing.
The property contains three town-owned wells that produce 200,000 gallons of drinking water per day.
First Selectman Paul Formica said preserving the Darrow property is essential to the regional water interconnection project voters approved in February.
Formica said town is considering building storage tanks on the site.
"There will also be open space for hiking and enjoyment of the land," Formica said.
Hemmed in by Camp Pattagansett, Yale's Sheffield Scientific School and Nehantic State Forest, the property is a mix of open fields, oak and maple forests and wetlands. There are already several scenic trails on the land.
"It's a spectacular piece of land," said Kerri Culhane, a project manager with the trust.