May 25, 2022

Old Saybrook Planning Commission to hold second public hearing on Preserve development, January 5

Residents post signs to preserve the land

The Old Saybrook Planning Commission will hold a second public hearing on the controversial proposal to develop the Preserve on Wednesday, Jan. 5 at 7:30 p.m.  The hearing will be held at the Middle School in Old Saybrook.

The Preserve property consists of  1,000 acres of open space, most of which is located in Old Saybrook along Ingham Hill Road, although 60 acres of the site are located in Essex and a smaller parcel in Westbrook.

The Jan. 5 hearing, like the earlier hearing in early December, will consider a proposal by developer River Sound Development LLC to develop a small portion of the 1,000 acre site along Ingham Hill Road. This new proposal would consist of three developed sites containing 224 units of new housing.  

1,000 acres of vacant land at issue

An earlier development plan of the Preserved a number of years ago, envisioned the construction of 221 new housing units and a new golf course with a club house. Although this proposal was approved by the Old Saybrook Planning Commission in 2005, the Inland Wetland Commission thwarted the plan from going forward because of environmental concerns.  The developers appealed the Wetland Commission’s decision to the courts but to no avail. 

Although Old Saybrook First Selectman Michael Pace declined to take a position on the Preserve’s latest application, noting that the idea to develop the Preserve “has been going on for years,” Essex First Selectman Phil Miller on the other hand is staunchly opposed to the new proposal.

Essex First Selectman Phil Miller

Miller has said, “The Preserve is a 1,000 acre, wet and rocky sponge. The best use of the property is open space.” Development of the property in Miller’s view “is not in the best interests of Old Saybrook or Essex.” 

Miller is also seeking a new purchaser of the Preserve property, who would preserve the land as open space. He recently met with representatives of the Trust for Public Land with this in mind.

Expected to speak against the new application at the Jan. 5 hearing is the Connecticut Fund for the Environment. Others in the past, who have voiced opposition to the Preserve’s development include: local State Senators, Eileen Daily, Andrea Stillman, and Edward Meyer; and State Representatives, James Spallone, Marilyn Giuliano, and Brian O’Connor. U.S. Senator-elect Richard Blumenthal has also expressed his opposition to developing the Preserve.   

Some 60 local residents came out for the first hearing on the proposed River Sound development, and many of them opposed it.