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Murphy Backs Change In Law To Help Preserve Land At Greenwich Stop

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, at left, speaking with local residents and officials in Riverside Tuesday. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, at right, speaking with local residents and officials in Riverside Tuesday. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern

GREENWICH, Conn. -- Donating property to a land trust to protect it from development is a yearly gamble, but one of Connecticut's two U.S. senators said he wants to make it a sure thing.

During a stop at a land preserve in the Riverside neighborhood of Greenwich on Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said he supports legislation that would remove uncertainty from the donation of land for conservation easements.

"The problem is we only extend it on a year-to-year basis and now it is even worse," he told members of the Greenwich Land Trust, Town Conservation Director Denise Savageau and Roger Bowden, the town's Shellfish Commission chairman. 

"We extend it on a year-to-year basis, but we don't do it until 11 months into the calendar year, and we apply it retroactively so no one can do any planning."

The program has been approved every year, he said, and people do take the chance that it will be extended. However, Murphy said he is backing a bill that would made the yearly approval a permanent one, or extend it five or 10 years to remove that uncertainty.

Murphy made the comments in a gilded corner of Riverside, with multimillion-dollar mansions surrounding the Sea Meadow Preserve. The small 1-acre site is located off 100 Cedar Cliff Road and along the waterfront.

Ginny Gwynn, executive director of the Greenwich Land Trust, said the preserve is an example of how local people banded together to buy property to give to the trust to save it from development.

"It's just a wonderful example of what people can do," Gwynn said. "The neighbors came together and said they wanted to protect this piece of land from development. So, no house and no pollutants from this land, which is great. If we could do that over and over and over again, we'd be in better shape." 

The land trust owns about 500 acres in Greenwich and oversees about 200 acres of conservation easements that the trust manages and can't be developed.

The trust relies on the generosity of the town's residents to donate land to it or to enter into conservation easements.

"The reason we don't buy more properties is the price of real estate in Greenwich," Gwynn said.

"I've heard," Murphy joked in a nod to the  town's pricy real estate.

The visit to Riverside was part of a series of events  in Fairfield County that Murphy held Tuesday focusing on the environment and Long Island Sound.

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