Updated: Wednesday, 04 Apr 2012, 6:57 PM EDT
Published : Wednesday, 04 Apr 2012, 7:20 AM EDT
HADDAM, Conn. (AP) — Haddam residents who fought a land exchange between Connecticut and developers cheered Wednesday the decision by developers not to pursue a swap with the state for riverfront property set aside for conservation.
Melissa Schlag of Citizens for the Protection of Public Lands said opponents believe the developers' decision Tuesday to pull out was a victory for opponents even though the legislature easily approved the deal and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed it into law last year.
"We still consider this a win because I think this (the swap) would have happened if people didn't speak up," Schlag said. "It became a negative issue."
Under the deal, developers would have exchanged 87 acres of wooded property for 17 acres of state-owned land along the Connecticut River in Haddam. Developers would pay the difference in the values of their property and the state-owned property.
On Tuesday, Riverhouse Properties told the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection that the company decided not to pursue the swap because the $1.3 million appraisal of the riverfront property was more than the value of the developers' wooded acres, which are also in Haddam.
"We take exception to the conclusions of the appraisals, specifically the market values," Trevor Furrer, managing partner of Riverhouse Properties, said on the developers' website.
Plans called for construction of a hotel, stores and a train station to boost tourism in rural Haddam and along the lower Connecticut River. The 17-acre site is adjacent to the Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station, a banquet, conference and catering center.
A group of local residents organized to fight the exchange of state land that had been set aside for conservation. Opponents said the deal set a dangerous precedent, forcing land owners to think twice before donating property to the state for conservation out of fear the state will trade it off.
Several local officials and Sen. Eileen Daily, a key sponsor of the legislation and whose district includes Haddam, said the issue was about determining the best development for the lower Connecticut River. A hotel, shops and other tourist attractions would have had less impact on the land than dozens of houses on the 87-acre site the state would get in the deal, she said.
Daily also said the newly-acquired state site would have provided more public access to the adjacent Cockaponset State Forest.
"I think it's disappointing for Haddam and the region," she said.
However, the legislation was "very carefully constructed" to ensure that state taxpayers would not lose money in the deal, Daily said.
Developers did not immediately return a call for comment Wednesday.