June 19, 2019

Essex Town Meeting Approves $200,000 Purchase of Perry Property on 34-30 Vote

ESSEX— Voters at a town meeting Wednesday approved a $200,000 purchase of the .65-acre back section of the Perry property at 27 West Avenue on a 34-30 show of hands vote. The small parcel abuts the town hall property and Grove Street Park.

It was the location of the parcel that led First Selectman Norman Needleman to support the land purchase. The parcel, which includes a historic house on the front section, was owned by Eileen Perry, a longtime resident who died in June. The entire parcel was assessed at $623,000 on the current grand list. Needleman negotiated the purchase price with members of the Perry family, insisting that the town receive full ownership of the back section, with the house to be sold separately.

Needleman said the purchase was “a one of a kind opportunity,” to acquire some of the last remaining open land abutting the town hall property. “It’s an opportunity for the future,” he said, adding the town has no immediate plans for use of the property. But Needleman suggested the parcel could eventually become the site of a town hall annex building at some undetermined date in the future.

Needleman said $200,000 was “a fair price,” for the .65 acre, noting that a permanent easement on the parcel had been valued at that amount by an appraiser hired by the Perry family. He said town acquisition of the parcel would result in a loss of only $470 in annual tax revenue at the current tax rate.

The purchase was also endorsed by newly seated Republican Selectman Bruce Glowac, who agreed the key location made the land an asset for the future. Along with abutting the town hall site, the parcel also abuts to the east the Pratt House property that is owned by the Essex Historical Society. “This land would enhance the town property even if it remained as open space,” Glowac said.

The land purchase was endorsed by the board of finance at an Oct. 17 meeting, though the finance board made no immediate determination on how to pay the $200,000 purchase price. Needleman said the $200,000 could be taken from the town’s undesignated fund balance, which now totals over $2 million, or be included as part of a bond issue for capital projects that is planned in 2014.

The prospect of a bond authorization request for numerous town projects next year led some residents to question the need for spending money for a property purchase now, while others contended the town should not buy land without an immediate plan to utilize it. But others maintained it made sense to acquire the land now as a future asset for the town.

After about 70 minutes of discussion at a public hearing that preceded the town meeting, the expenditure and land purchase was approved on a 34-30 vote. Voters at the town meeting rejected a motion to hold a paper ballot vote, with the vote done by a show of hands.

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