Editorial: Vote yes on Keiser property

Many have stepped up in support of the purchase of a conservation easement for the Keiser family property. The Bulletin is confident this purchase will be a positive addition to the town of Wilton and stands with those in favor.

Conservation of open space in an area of Fairfield County where land is sold at a premium is a very important initiative for any town to take. Wilton is 27 square miles, or about 17,280 acres. Of those, there are 1,657 acres of protected open land — less than 10%. These areas offer year-round passive recreation opportunities for those who wish to walk, run or ride a bike where they don’t have to dodge traffic on windy or busy roads.

Compared to other area towns, this amount of open space is “average,” according to Patricia Sesto, head of the Environmental Affairs Department. For a town that is rightly proud of its excellent academics, athletics, and town facilities, “average” should not be good enough.

At a cost of $2.5 million, the Keiser family is selling its land to the town well below its commercial value. With interest rates still low, the town could get a very favorable rate for borrowing.

And the town will not lose any tax revenue, since the property owners will continue to pay real estate taxes at the same rate they have been paying for years. That is because the land is already being taxed at a reduced rate for forest land and open space through a state program, Public Act 490.

The bond required to purchase the land will cost the average taxpayer $20 per year in additional taxes, until the bond has been repaid. It is also worth noting that Wilton’s finance department has an excellent track record of repaying bonds at a quick rate.

If this property came up for sale on the open market, development would undoubtedly ensue, adding more children to the school district, more roads the town would eventually be required to maintain, and more hard surfaces that would contribute to storm runoff and environmental pollution. Not to mention the carbon footprint each new home built would leave.

Decades ago, Wiltonians successfully fought having Super 7 split the town with a devastating concrete swath. We can build on that success by investing in open space to keep the town green and the air fresh. To get a look at the Keiser property, please see the photos Daryl Hawk took on page 1C, or visit wiltonbulletin.com.

The Bulletin urges citizens to approve the easement purchase. There are two opportunities. The first is Tuesday night after the Special Town Meeting that starts at 7:30 at the Clune Center. An adjourned vote will take place Saturday, Nov. 23, from 9 to 5.