Shared from the 8/29/2021 The Advocate eEdition

‘We want to preserve open space’

Stamford Land Trust pitches land acquisition to Planning Board

Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Conn. Media

Land Conservation Trust President Harry Day shows a new parcel of land poised to be acquired by SLCT in Stamford last week.

Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Conn. Media

Land Conservation Trust President Harry Day shows a new parcel of land poised to be acquired by SLCT in Stamford last week.

STAMFORD — The Stamford Land Conservation Trust, a group dedicated to acquiring and preserving open space for public use, is poised to create one of the city’s largest swaths of publicly accessible land if city boards approve a cash transfusion to the group.

The end goal is 245 acres of untouched land crowded with lush trees and bucolic streams just a few miles from downtown Stamford.

The Planning Board in mid-August voted unanimously in favor of beginning the purchase of 64 acres of land once part of the sprawling estate of Stamford’s wealthy Altschul family. However, the Stamford Land Conservation Trust, now it has convinced the Planning Board, must still win over both the Board of Representatives and the Board of Finance before completing the transaction in full. If approved, the city would supply $1 million toward the full purchase price.

Though trustees were initially selling the land for about $4 million, according to Land Trust President Harry Day, his organization is under contract to buy the two parcels for $1 million “less than what it would cost to buy ... on the open market.”

Day — who held a seat on the Board of Representatives for 19 years and has served on the land trust’s board since 2001 — told The Stamford Advocate that the proprietors initially explored development of the two parcels just north of the Merritt Parkway, linking together two existing SLCT holdings. But the land trust prevailed.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Day said to the Planning Board in August. “I had to work real hard with the owners of these properties to give up on selling.”

Martin’s administration will provide $1 million toward the purchase. However, the trust hopes grants from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection could subsidize between $300,000 and $500,000 of the sale’s ultimate cost. Day said the trust will know how much money it gets from the state “by October.”

During brief remarks before the Planning Board, Martin lauded the deal as a “terrific thing” for the city.

“We’re trying to take advantage of the development that we have,” Martin said to the Planning Board. “And in other places, like this one, we want to preserve open space.”

Martin specifically pointed out that he wants the land trust’s property to integrate fully with Stamford’s existing trail system, something that Day said he is amenable to.

But the rest of the final price will have to come from private financiers, some of which have already been secured. Day himself gave $200,000 to the cause, and another private donor contributed another $1 million, Day said.

Aside from the land in question, the Altschul name can be spotted all across Stamford.

Under the direction of family patriarch Frank Altschul — New York investment banker-turned-philanthropist — the family lavished both Yale University and Williams College in Massachusetts with handsome gifts. An annex at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center is named after the family’s famed Overbrook Farms estate. The observatory at the museum is named, too, after the Altschuls.

The Stamford Conservation Land Trust already owns another massive former Altschul property: the 148-acre Helen Altschul Preserve, named after Frank’s late wife. The group said that altogether, nearly one-third of the trust’s properties once belonged to the Altschul family — and that number is only set to grow if the trust obtains final approvals for the 64 acres it has negotiated for.

The Board of Representatives is set to decide whether it will green-light the million-dollar appropriation at its next meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday.

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