With the endorsement of the Connecticut Senate in the final hours of the 2014 legislative session, the Catherine Violet Hubbard Foundation is one step closer to establishing a permanent animal sanctuary in Newtown.
Provided Governor Dannel Malloy signs off on the action and subsequent administrative reviews and approvals occur, the foundation established in the memory of the young 12/14 victim will receive a conveyance of 34.44 acres of state agricultural property adjacent to Newtown’s animal control facility and newly christened dog park.
The initiative, championed by State Representatives Mitch Bolinsky, DebraLee Hovey, and Dan Carter and Senator John McKinney, is one of several conveyances that were approved in late action by the legislature.
The proposal, which has been in the works since November, brings the Catherine Violet Hubbard Foundation within sight of its goal to establish a permanent animal sanctuary to memorialize the plucky, animal-loving redhead who was taken from her family and the community along with 19 classmates and six educators in the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook School.
Catherine’s mother, Jenny Hubbard, told The Newtown Bee that she, her husband Matt, and other foundation supporters had been working diligently to find the perfect site for the eventual animal facility beginning a few months after the heartbreaking events of 12/14.
“We were pursuing both private and public properties for the sanctuary, and we saw this parcel for the first time last April,” Ms Hubbard said. “At the time we thought it was an optimal location but saw the challenge of trying to obtain state-owned land.”
Mr Bolinsky said it is unusual for the state to consider conveying its available lands to private enterprises versus municipalities or government agencies, but nonetheless he and the rest of the Newtown delegation fully supported and spoke in favor of the proposal.
“It will be conveyed on the condition that it be used for agricultural or recreational purposes, specifically as an animal sanctuary operated by the foundation,” the representative said, adding there are a number of other conditions pending.
“If the land is leased, sold, or used for any other purpose than what is intended, it reverts back to the state,” he added.
According to language in the conveyance legislation, notwithstanding any provision of the general statutes, the commissioner of agriculture shall convey to the Catherine Violet Hubbard Foundation, Inc, the parcel at a cost equal to the administrative costs of making such conveyance.
That parcel, encompassing approximately 34.44 acres, is bounded on the west by the Housatonic Railroad right-of-way property line; on the north by the approximately 37.54-acre parcel sold to the Town of Newtown for economic development; and on the east and south by the approximately 21.66-acre parcel conveyed to the Town of Newtown along Deep Brook.
If the legislation is signed by the governor, the conveyance will still be subject to the approval of the State Properties Review Board. The bill stipulates the local foundation must use said parcel of land for an animal sanctuary, wildlife preserve, or other nature preservation purpose.
The state also is reserving a 50-foot-wide easement extending approximately 1,540 feet along the entire general northerly line of the parcel. The easement would provide an access point to other state lands in the vicinity, and for agricultural purposes.
Review by the State Properties Review Board shall occur no later than 30 days after it receives a proposed agreement from the Department of Agriculture, according to the bill.
Ms Hubbard said from the moment she suggested the site to local legislators, they were immediately supportive of the proposal and went to work supporting it. Mr Bolinsky said he was under the impression Gov Malloy was also aware of the request and may have played a role in bringing the initiative to fruition.
“Somehow the governor got involved,” he said, adding that he was contacted about it by the governor’s office a few days before the house vote.
“After talking with the local delegation, it just came together,” Ms Hubbard said. “It was just wonderful to know [legislators] were sharing our vision, and it was helpful getting their insight through the process.”
Ms Hubbard said they decided to approach the lawmakers about seriously pursuing the parcel shortly after their daughter posthumously received the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Tommy P. Monahan Kid of the Year Award.
That honor is presented each year to a child who shows extraordinary compassion toward animals. Catherine, said her mother, had always been an advocate for creatures great and small, whispering to them, “Tell your friends I am kind.”
Once the family learned the conveyance was a strong possibility they went right to work honing a business plan to illustrate that the foundation was equipped and prepared to create and sustain such a development.
The proposal was also strongly supported by First Selectman Pat Llodra, who said the finished project will not only serve as a sanctuary for animals, but for visitors as well.
The Hubbards and foundation supporters are ready to hit the ground running upon learning the governor approved the conveyance.
“We understand that we still have a long way to go, and no matter what, we are so humbled and grateful to our state representatives and the governor for supporting this,” Ms Hubbard said. “Now we are hopeful Governor Malloy will sign it, and we look forward to sharing this great gift with the community and visitors in memory of Catherine.”
Learn more about the foundation by visiting cvhfoundation.org.