Published December 03. 2011 4:00AM
East Lyme - The town Friday completed the $4.1 million purchase of 301 acres surrounding Darrow Pond from Webster Bank.
The national nonprofit Trust for Public Land helped the town with the purchase and paid for all the environmental and legal work associated with the purchase.
"This is a great opportunity for the community," First Selectman Paul Formica said in an interview Friday. "It's a 'two-fer.'"
Plans call for roughly 50 acres to be set aside as the location for a water tower that will be part of the town's connection to a reservoir owned by the City of New London.
The remaining acreage, with its ample old maple and oak trees, will be preserved as open space.
Formica said Friday that a committee will be formed later this month to study possible passive recreational uses of the space, which in the past 20 years was going to be the site of an 18-hole golf course, and most recently, a 600-unit housing development.
Formica said it is unclear whether he will appoint the committee himself or it will be a decision of the Board of Selectman.
In May, the town and the trust announced they were partnering to purchase the property from Webster Bank, which had obtained the property in a foreclosure.
"The Trust for Public Land is proud to have assisted the Town of East Lyme in conserving another important landscape," Alicia Betty, the trust's Connecticut director said in a prepared statement.
Over the summer, the purchase gained overwhelming approval from several town boards, though it passed the Board of Finance by just one vote.
Some board members said at the time the purchase price was too high, and some residents who live near Darrow Pond said the project was "fast-tracked."
Voters approved a $4.23 million bond at a Sept.1 referendum by a 1,631 to 475 vote margin. About $85,000 went toward financing the bond.
Since voters approved the sale, Webster Bank has competed an environmental cleanup of the site, which was once home to a J.C. Penney testing facility.
The trust announced Friday it will hold a party for the community in the spring to celebrate the purchase.