Daughter: Shelton land deal goes against late father's dream

SHELTON — Questions about a patriarch's final wishes are contributing to the state of "limbo" the city finds itself in regarding the potential sale of 25 acres off Old Mill Road.

Laura Wells said her father — the late Lyman Wells — knew that the land would one day be sold, but his plea to his family before his death some 10 years ago was that it is not sold for development, she said. Now that a developer has stepped forward to express interest in the property, she said she is livid. 

“This is not about money for me,” said Laura Wells, one of five children born to Lyman and his wife, Pat. “It is about the preservation of the land and the wildlife."

Both Pat and Laura Wells own property on Old Mill Road adjacent to the open space. 

“My father’s dream was to be able to look out and enjoy this land … and I want to keep that dream alive,” Laura added. 

And Lyman’s dream, she said, appeared to become a reality earlier this year, when Wells Holding, LLC, owners of the land, reached an agreement to sell the 25 acres to the city for $1.29 million. The agreement called for the city to pay the family in three installments. 

But in recent weeks, Laura said that deal fell apart, as a commercial developer stepped in and offered $1.5 million for 26 acres — one more acre than what the family had agreed to sell the city. That extra acre was to go to her brother, Travis, but the family, without her input, negotiated selling all the land, including that acre, to the developer, hence the additional money in the deal, according to Laura.

Attorney Charles Willinger, who represents Wells Holding, LLC, said there have been “several inquiries and proposals to acquire the site. We have and continue to weigh these proposals and meet with all members of the family to make a final decision.”

Willinger said a social media post Laura shared on her stance, which has generated significant support for her stance, was not accurate in several regards but did not elaborate. He said any negotiations and potential deals for the land remain confidential. 

“Mr. Wells’ overriding wishes were to provide to his wife and children,” Willinger added. 

Mayor Mark Lauretti confirmed last week that the deal between the city and Wells Holding, LLC, was in “limbo,” but Laura says she plans to speak with the mayor again as she pushes for the city to come back to the negotiating table. 

“These 25 trust acres conjoin the 100 acres behind Long Hill School and a few dozen acres below the 25 acres at the end of Old Mill Road … a perfect Greenbelt for the City of Shelton,” Laura wrote in her Facebook post. 

“The land is home to box turtles, owls, foxes, fields of milk weed that feed traveling monarch butterflies and one of the state's largest Black Tupelo trees,” Laura further stated. “There are plenty of wetlands and ponds as well.” 

Laura confirmed Lauretti’s statement that he had a “handshake agreement” for the city to purchase the trust property minus the 1-acre building lot at the end of Old Mill Road she said was to go to her brother. But that deal has come to a halt. 

“Fast forward a few months to where we are now,” Laura stated. “All beneficiaries, trustees and managers got an email from an attorney last week with 12 days' notice there is a meeting at his office to discuss tax ramifications for selling the land." 

She then stated that the email contained details on the land’s proposed sale to a local developer. 

Laura said the land is zoned light industrial so “leveling the land and putting up office buildings is on the table. 

“The offer is $1.5 million with no building lot,” she added. “It is the same amount of money the city is willing to spend minus the building lot. The only difference is lump sum versus three yearly payments.” 

Lauretti has stated that if a developer came in with a plan that followed the zone, he would probably be “OK” with it. He stressed that he would oppose any residential development on the land. 

“The ball's in their court,” Lauretti said about the deal. “We had a deal I got approved … (there is) nothing else for me to do at this point.”