SOUTHBURY — The Board of Selectmen met on Thursday, November 1, with executive sessions at both ends of the agenda, before and after the regular meeting, a rare event.
Following the second session the board took action, voting to appoint Cindy Harrison to the position of assistant treasurer. Mrs. Harrison currently also serves as assistant to the first selectman.
The officers of the Pierce Hollow Village, Inc., are the same group responsible for Grace Meadows Senior Housing, which now has a four-year waiting list. They were devastated to learn at the October 18 selectmen’s meeting that their project to add a new much-needed senior housing facility on Southbury Training School property was in jeopardy because asbestos in some of the buildings had been identified in a routine engineers’ report.
The Pierce Hollow Board, as a temporary measure, turned to the Board of Selectmen and suggested transfer of the property to the town.
Not surprisingly the Board of Selectmen demurred, but eventually it was decided that Selectman Jason Buchsbaum, a practicing attorney in his other life, and Town Attorney Jeffrey Tinley should confer and advise.
Ultimately it was decided to seek an additional opinion from Attorney Gail McTaggart, whose land use expertise is respected far and wide.
Ms. McTaggart responded with a single-spaced, two-page letter addressed to the Board of Selectmen which was duly read into the record.
“Please note that conveyance to the Town will not make the Town liable for any existing environmental pollution,” she wrote. “In 2011, Conn Gen. Stat. Section 22a-452d was adopted, which provides the municipality responsive for that pollution and qualified as an “innocent landowner.
“The purpose of this legislation [is to] provide liability for municipal entities to encourage them to redevelop brownfield sites by removing potential liability concerns which might otherwise arise from acquiring title to previously contaminated property.”
Ms. McTaggart added a comment that puts the plea plainly: “The Southbury site is far from a contaminated brownfield site.”
And, according to Ms. McTaggart’s opinion, “It should be noted that the Town is classified as an ‘innocent landowner’ and as such is not liable for pollution it does not cause or for State actions taken to contain or mitigate a spill; further due diligence is not required for government entities such as the Town to obtain this status.”
Finally, “Although we truly believe it will not be necessary, protection is available as a safe harbor for the Town when it takes title to this property. Also in this case, the work to be accomplished on the property will be conducted by Pierce Hollow, not the Town, further insulating the Town from liability.”
Members of the Pierce Hollow Board were obviously relieved and pleased.
The Board of Selectmen agreed to notify the state that the town of Southbury would take title to the property formerly known as Personnel Village at Southbury Training School under Special Act 13-23.