Governor Dannel P. Malloy today urged the Connecticut General Assembly to approve a bill he introduced that protects the land on the property of the Southbury Training School as farmland, and also announced the creation of a state-local task force that will begin planning for long-term uses of the property.
The legislation transfers the land from the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) to the Department of Agriculture, who will preserve the land for agricultural use through a conservation easement. The Department of Agriculture will continue to own the land and will work with the Town of Southbury to lease it for agricultural use. Southbury First Selectman Ed Edelson announced his support for the proposal, calling the plan the first step in ensuring that both the state and the town safeguard proper use of the property.
"The agricultural land on the property of the Southbury Training School is a beautiful gem in our state that we should preserve forever as farmland," Governor Malloy said. "The scenic area is a unique treasure with the ability to produce any number of Connecticut Grown products. We must act now to preserve this farmland. I want to thank First Selectman Edelson for working with us on this initiative to protect one of the most spectacular farm properties in our state."
First Selectman Edelson said, "The residents of Southbury have had a very positive relationship with the Southbury Training School over the last 70 years. Preserving these farmlands under the active management of the Department of Agriculture will be an important step to preserving our rural landscape and providing the environmental benefits of extensive agriculture."
"This legislation will allow DDS to focus solely on the mission of the department related to individuals in our service system instead of having to focus limited resources on administering agricultural land, which is clearly an issue better suited for the Department of Agriculture," DDS Commissioner Terrence W. Macy, Ph.D., said. "The provisions of the bill will both protect the goal of preservation and allow DDS continued use of the necessary land and buildings, which are a valuable resource for persons with intellectual disability."
"This is one of the most significant pieces of legislation before the General Assembly with respect to actions the state can take regarding the permanent protection of critical farmlands," Department of Agriculture Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky said. "This western Connecticut resource is one of a kind and the "crown jewel' of state agricultural properties. Passage of this bill will keep this farm unit available for agricultural production in perpetuity."
Governor Malloy also announced that he is forming a special state-local task force to develop a comprehensive plan on the future use of the campus and how to maintain the building and grounds as it continues to be home to residents.
The nine-member group will be composed of:
Department of Developmental Services Commissioner Terrence W. Macy (Co-Chair)
Office of Policy & Management Secretary Ben Barnes (Co-Chair)
Southbury First Selectman Ed Edelson
Department of Agriculture Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky
Department of Economic & Community Development Commissioner Catherine Smith
A state official with knowledge of the Southbury Training School infrastructure (recommended by Commissioner Macy)
A resident of the Town of Southbury (recommended by First Selectman Edelson)
A Town of Southbury business representative (recommended by First Selectman Edelson)
A resident of the Southbury Training School or a family member or guardian (recommended by Commissioner Macy)
The Governor will ask the task force to make a recommendation on the scope and framework of their study by January 30, 2014.