How to best preserve land in Shelton that remains privately owned

Almost seven acres of land that was to be set aside as city open space will remain undeveloped, but now will instead be privately owned and maintained.

The 6.6 acres is part of the 40-home Cranberry Hill Estates off Armstrong Road. The cluster housing development contains a series of short cul-de-sacs on almost 23 acres. Some of the land borders Route 8.

About one-third of the property was to be donated to the city as open space as part of the zoning approval for the project, and there was to be a pedestrian easement for a walking path on the land as well.

But the Board of Aldermen later voted against accepting the land because it wasn’t contiguous to other open space and they saw no reason for the city to own it.

“It was of no value to us,” aldermanic President John Anglace said. “The public wasn’t going to use it.”

Anglace said it didn’t make sense to take the land off the tax rolls, obligate the city to maintain it, and open the city up to liability as the property owner. “This way, they have to maintain it,” he said.

Homeowners association will own

The property will belong to the homeowners association at Cranberry Hill Estates. It will be classified as “common land” owned by the association.

The zoning approval prevents the 6.6 acres from being developed because it has a conservation easement on it, which prevents any development or massive tree clearing.

Cranberry Hill Estates was approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission as part of a Planned Residence District.

Easement wording

The city now is now looking at how to best establish conservation restrictions on private land.

Traditionally, as part of zoning approval on certain projects, some land might be given to the city as open space or a public conservation easement granted to the city.

Zoning subdivision rules require this take place with certain subdivisions, or a fee must be paid in lieu of such a donation.

Based on recent Board of Aldermen action, however, it now appears in the future more of that land might be restricted from any development but remain privately owned.

The land involved often is fragmented, not particularly accessible and may contain wetlands.

The Conservation Commission, in particular, is contemplating the best way to ensure this land remains in a natural state without city ownership or control — or what is being called a private conservation easement.

Some issues came up with how a private conservation easement or restriction was worded with the Shelton Cove development on Route 110, with concerns about the extent of clearing later done by the developer.

The Conservation Commission is working with one private developer now on how private conservation easements should be handled to best protect the land from the city’s perspective.