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Deleloper withdraws request for zone change in East Lyme

East Lyme 末 Landmark Development has withdrawn 末 at least temporarily 末 its application for a zone change to convert the Oswegatchie Hills area into an Affordable Housing District. The Middletown-based developer, which has development rights to 500 acres there, had planned to build 894 housing units on the property.

First Selectman Wayne L. Fraser and others, including state Department of Environmental Protection officials and a grass-roots organization known as Friends of the Oswegatchie Hills Preserve, had opposed plans to develop any of the Hills' 781 acres, preferring that it be preserved as open space.

Landmark's withdrawal came two weeks before its application was to come before the Zoning Commission. Fraser and Glenn Russo, a Landmark principal, discussed the firm's plans in a private meeting Jan. 30. On Tuesday, they jointly issued a six-paragraph statement.

鄭lthough Landmark has already incurred significant expense in its plans to develop the parcel, representatives from the company agreed to consider selling the property for open space preservation, the statement said. 迭epresentatives of the developer agreed to postpone their zoning application for 30 days.

溺r. Fraser expressed his intention to work with Landmark in the hopes of facilitating serious contract negotiations during this time period.

Fraser said Tuesday that the parties had agreed not to comment beyond the statement. Russo could not be reached.

Landmark's request that an Affordable Housing District be created came after the Zoning Commission rejected its proposal to develop an 18-hole golf course and a senior housing complex with a nine-hole course on the Hills property. That rejection, and the commission's subsequent move to rezone the area to five-acre minimum lots with a 90 percent open space requirement, prompted Landmark to file Superior Court lawsuits against the commission.

Landmark was seeking an Affordable Housing District because less than 10 percent of East Lyme's housing stock is within the reach of households whose income is between 60 and 80 percent of the average income in the area. In such cases, the burden is on the town to demonstrate why a proposed housing development should be rejected, rather than on the developer to demonstrate why it could and should be developed.

Russo, who owns 87 acres in the Hills under the name of Jarvis of Cheshire LLC, said in December that the town and state could purchase the property to maintain it as open space. But he said that could only happen if the property owners and the DEP, which would ultimately make the purchase, could come to an agreement on the land's fair market value.

An assessment of the property would depend on what could be developed there. If the land, part of which was once a quarry, could support 894 housing units, it might have a higher value than if it could only support, say, 200 units. Once the parties agree on an assessed value, the DEP and Landmark could negotiate a purchase price for various parcels. Earlier appraisals obtained by Russo and the DEP were far apart.

During the next 30 days, Fraser and Russo will negotiate an assessment procedure agreeable to both sides.

的f after 30 days, no sales agreement has been reached, Landmark can refile their zoning application without prejudice, the parties said in Tuesday's statement.

Marvin Schutt, co-chairman of the Friends of the Oswegatchie Hills Preserve, said he was surprised to hear of Landmark's withdrawal of its application.

典his sounds like a private deal between Mr. Fraser and Mr. Russo, Schutt said. 的'm ecstatic about it. Beyond that, I have no comment.
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