Land deal with O&G to go to town meeting

Beacon Falls officials are looking at buying land that borders the public works garage on Lopus Road from O&G Industries. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

BEACON FALLS — The public will have a say on a proposed land deal between the town and O&G Industries.

In October, the town reached a deal with O&G to buy a roughly 5.5-acre parcel of land adjacent to the public works garage on Lopus Road. Under the agreement, the town would buy the land for $1. O&G has the right to buy the land back for a $1 after 15 years, unless the town and the company reach a mutual agreement to extend the deal for five years. If O&G takes no action after 15 years, or 20 years if the deal is extended, the town takes ownership of the land, under the agreement.

The Board of Selectmen last week voted to send the deal to a public hearing and a town meeting for a vote, though no date was set for the meeting. Officials said the meeting would likely be in the second half of January.

The plan is to use the land as a bulky waste site for brush and debris, since a solar panel array sits on the land the town used to use to dump brush between the public works garage and the wastewater treatment plant.

The $1 purchase price is under the $20,000 expenditure threshold for purchases the town has to send to a town meeting for a vote, and the board has the authority to approve it without a public vote.

When the deal was discussed in October, some people argued it should go to a town meeting anyways because of the tax revenue that would be lost due to the town controlling the land and the money the town will have to spend to build a bulky waste site on the land.

Officials haven’t presented plans for the work needed on the land and expect to have more information regarding the costs associated with building a bulky waste site at the town meeting.

Subsequently, Selectman Michael Krenesky submitted a petition with 201 signatures requesting that the purchase be brought to a public hearing and then voted on at a town meeting. The petition wasn’t legally binding.

At last week’s board meeting, First Selectman Christopher Bielik said he reached out to the town attorney in October to draft the correct wording for a question to bring to a town meeting.

“Since that time we have received a petition to bring a question to the people of the town regarding this particular location and the intended use that we have,” Bielik said. “I think the Board of Selectmen was leaning toward doing that regardless of whether a petition was received or not.”

During the meeting, Krenesky presented a second option for the town’s consideration — a 9.5-acre site at 384 Lopus Road that abuts the O&G property that’s under consideration.

The asking price is $380,000, rather than $1, but the town would own it, Krenesky said.

“It is a 9.5-acre piece of property that we would be purchasing outright without having anything hanging over heads about whether the seller would take the property back from us and we would lose any investment we put into the property,” Krenesky said.

According to the property card, the property has a 3,385-square-foot house and a 750-square-foot barn on it. The owners of the property, which is assessed at $315,050, are listed as Terrance Murtha and June Rydzik, who is Krenesky’s sister.

Krenesky, who acknowledged his conflict of interest and said he would not vote on the property if it came to it, said the parcel at 384 Lopus Road could fit a public works garage as well as the space to dump bulky waste.

“We have a discussion sitting before us in the future about how we are going to expand the town garage. So I am making a proposal that we consider that this piece of property may be an option for us,” Krenesky said.

In an interview after the meeting, Krenesky said if the town moved the public works garage, it could use the land where the garage sits to expand the wastewater treatment plant, which needs federally-mandated upgrades.

Bielik and Selectman Peter Betkoski said they weren’t prepared to discuss the property at 384 Lopus Road since they had just received the proposal.

Bielik said the vote at the town meeting will be to accept or decline the deal with O&G. The other property could be part of the discussion during the public hearing, he said.

“This would be part of the public hearing, which would go into the decision people would be making as part of the vote,” Bielik said.