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Proposed Ordinance Addresses Land Acquisitions, Leases

Published: October 28, 2017

The Legislative Council is calling on any resident who may want to comment on two proposed ordinances to attend a public hearing ahead of the panel’s next regular meeting Wednesday, November 1.

The hearing on a proposed Acquisition and Disposition of Real Property Ordinance, and a Pension Ordinance is scheduled for 7 pm that evening at the Municipal Center.

Council Ordinance Committee Chairman Ryan Knapp told The Newtown Bee that following the latest Newtown Charter Revision, the newly drafted acquisition and disposition section of that revision was extremely comprehensive. But, he said that language specific to leases and properties valued at under $20,000 needed to be broken out into an ordinance.

“The Charter basically deals with properties that are valued at over $20,000, and establishes a process for acquisition or disposition, and it’s very good that we have this process,” Mr Knapp said. “It’s clear and explicit, and the Land Use Agency is very happy with it because it provides a road map of how to proceed with these property transfers.”

But with properties under $20,000, there was no process outlined. As a result, Mr Knapp said applying the machinations for higher valued property could be expensive. He said a property under $20,000 that is part of a land swap, or tiny a piece of public land that may abut a private parcel whose owner is seeking a lot line revision or a small added piece of land to put in a driveway should not have to undergo the protracted process and costly appraisals required for much larger parcels.

“Going through all that may either be cost prohibitive, or it could end up costing the parties involved more than the parcel is worth,” Mr Knapp said. “So we established a more appropriate process in line with the value of those small properties. Any properties valued at more than $20,000 needs to go through the Charter-stipulated process.”

He said the additional processes outlined in the proposed ordinance would ease both the administrative and cost burdens, and help expedite any involvement of local land use staffers.

The ordinance also clarifies and expands language from the charter related to the process around the leasing of public land.

“So now there is a public process on why we do it and how we do it,” Mr Knapp said. “And it is outlined in such a way that as new employees come to work for the town, they will have a guideline to reference about that process.”

These ordinances are somewhat unique in that they supplement and overlay elements in the Charter, and establishes clear and explicit processes to address these particular circumstances, he said.

“This was something we were compelled to do when we adopted the latest Charter revision,” Mr Knapp said.

The ordinance chairman also noted that any member of the public with concerns about public land conveyances should know that state statutes require a public hearing on any public to private land transfer where the property is valued as low as $10,000.

“So the public would still have opportunities for public input on any transfer valued at $10,000, even though this ordinance and our charter references property in excess of $20,000 in value,” he said.

The proposed Pension Ordinance was also stipulated as a result of a policy rewrite related to how Newtown manages its pension funds.

Mr Knapp said that after First Selectman Pat Llodra worked to bring in a new pension consultant, that person raised some points about fee structures and accountability for the pension fund manager.

“That really changed the dynamic where now we have third party oversight, which is appropriate because that fund is so much bigger now,” he said. “So the selectmen administered a pension policy rewrite, and then the council and the Ordinance Committee had to look at what was described as several commissions in the language, which was actually a group of the same people.”

Mr Knapp said the new ordinance defines a single commission with various responsibilities that acts on behalf of the trustees and the Board of Selectmen who review documents and weigh in on advice from the third party consultant.

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