GROTON — The Office of Planning and Development Services has produced a report claiming that the GOSA management plan for The Merritt Family Forest violates “community goals and objectives.”
The June 9 report by Matthew J. Davis, Manager of Planning Services, was prepared against a background of complaints by Peter Roper, a Planning Commission member; Brian Kent, a private-sector trails planner for the town [and Merritt abutter]; and Alesia DiFederico, a member of the Connecticut Horse Council, Mr. Davis wrote.
The three have expressed opposition to GOSA’s decision not to allow dogs, horseback riding and bicycles on the 75-acre property. The policy is explained in a letter by Priscilla Pratt, who was president of GOSA until her death on June 15, 2009, and who led GOSA’s seven-year-long struggle to protect the property.
Planning Commission members decided at their meeting June 23 to visit the site, singly or in pairs (to avoid Sunlight Law violations), before making any decision about whether to urge the DEP to force GOSA to modify its management plan to allow construction of multiple use trails. The commission is to consider the matter at its next meeting, July 14.
Mr. Davis wrote that:
1. “The Town’s Plan anticipates growth and appropriate development on the site, which can take place while accommodating natural resources.”
2. “The prohibition GOSA seeks on use of the site would appear to be in direct conflict with adopted community goals and objectives, and would eliminate the community’s ability to implement relevant portions of the Town’s Trails Master Plan.”
3. “It would appear reasonable for the DEP to require that the current owners allow use of the trail system in accordance with those public plans and recreational trail objectives.”
GOSA has noted that the DEP has affirmed that GOSA’s management plan is in compliance with the easement GOSA provided to the state. It has observed further that Mr. Kent is an abutter to the land and that his wife, Deborah Finco Kent, is starting a stable on their abutting property featuring riding lessons, excursions, renting and leasing of horses, and stabling.
Mr. Davis’s memo was copied to Ms. DiFederico of the Horse Council, Town Manager Mark Oefinger, Recreation and Parks Director John Silsby, the DEP, and Mr. Kent, the trails consultant and abutter. GOSA was not copied. Nor was GOSA notified of the planned discussion of Mr. Davis’s memo at the June 23 meeting, though it learned late June 23 of the meeting topic and presented a statement on it at the meeting.