Voters at Wilton town meeting approved conservation easement for Frye Farm on Abbott Hill

WILTON – Town Meeting voters on Thursday, March 13, overwhelmingly approved spending $80,000 for a conservation easement on the Frye Farm on Abbott Hill.

The secret ballot vote, which required a simple majority, passed 220 yes to 91 no. The vote followed more than an hour of debate.

Debate was closed before everyone wishing to speak had been given the opportunity, but the decision was upheld by the audience.

Several who had planned to speak against the plan argued for their right to do so, but Moderator Bill Keefe ruled that the vote had been called for and it was nondebatable.

Following the vote, resident Carol Roberts moved to prohibit reconsideration of the question, which passed on a voice vote.

Debate on the easement centered on the preservation of farmland and “one of the best views in town,” as well as providing open space with public access. The property is in current use and will remain in that category and have no effect on tax revenue.

It was stressed that the town is not buying the land, only conservation rights. Owning those rights will allow the town a say in future uses. The easement will be held by the Yggdrasill Land Trust and will be part of the deed for whoever owns the land. High Mowing School is currently planning to purchase the land from the Frye family and have donated a piece of land to be preserved. Those speaking in favor of the purchase included Conservation Commission members Joe Broyles and Spencer Brookes, Anthony Graham of Four-
Corners Farm, resident Deb Degan and newly elected Selectman Kermit Williams.

Doug Whitney spoke against the plan saying, “It appears to be a private deal supported by public money.”

Harry Dailey said he had “grave concerns” because the Conservation Commission was “not unanimous for this.”

Curt Guild said, “I don’t think this is a good value for the town. I feel it diminishes the value of the land.”

In other business, voters also approved two amendments to the budget, adding $2,000 to remove a diseased tree that might be on town property and threatening a house, and $1,500 for the Community Center Committee to use as seed money for grants.

An attempt was made to add $15,000 to the ambulance appropriation for a second power stretcher, but was withdrawn when Ambulance Director Gary Zirpolo said it would be better planned for next year.

The total approved budget was $4,648,089.

An appropriation of $20,000 for repairs to Town Hall bathrooms was raised to $50,000 when Selectmen said the water damage was more extensive than first thought. Selectman Bill Condra said work would be done to seal the back wall.

A petition to elect rather than appoint the Public Works Director was tabled without discussion.

Earlier in the evening, the Highway Department asked for $37,000 for a pickup truck with plow. It will replace the 2003 vehicle, which Director Steve Elliott said “is falling apart.” Selectman Dan Donovan said the old vehicle would be offered for sale, “including the duct tape,” which holds it together.

A new six-wheel dump truck will replace a 1994 model with “over a half-million miles on it,” according to Elliott. “It’s rusted and it’s time to replace it.”

A new Fire Department rescue vehicle will replace a 1989 truck, which carried all of the rescue equipment needed for accidents. When it took for a state inspection, Elliott said, “They told me unload it on anyone we didn’t like.”

At the end of the meeting, retiring Selectman Donovan was honored for his nine years of service to the town and presented a plaque.

The meeting adjourned about 10:15 p.m.