The premise of this op-ed reflects my observations during my attendance at public referendum presentations, meetings of Granby’s BOS, BOF, Planning and Zoning, Parks and Recreation, Board of Education, budget workshops, discussions with the office of Community Development and recent review of Granby’s most recent Plan of Conservation and Development.
I hope it will stimulate Granby residents to contribute, vocally or in writing, to the town’s fiscal and quality-of-life issues. There is little or no attendance at these meetings with the exception of the annual budget hearing or for “not on my street” concerns. There are exceptions, of course, and I would welcome objective or supportive responses but also those definitively anti-rhetoric. This is a “wake up call” for those who acquiesce to business-as-usual or knee jerk fixes to issues with long term effects, but also those who wish to participate without fear of embarrassment or retribution. There is nothing to lose but the opportunity to speak up and question a board’s rationale for making a unilateral decision without considering public comment.
An example is the RFP for the East Street farm. At the public hearing, some residents supported an agricultural disposition only. Others wanted a RFP that solicited applications that proposed leasing or purchasing the property and the development rights for commercial purposes. The board’s job is to protect the town’s current and future fiscal health as well as preserving Granby’s open space. But if our aging population cannot afford to remain in town or the mill rate negatively impacts attracting and retaining new people, we cannot continue to rely on a restricted revenue base that is 90 percent supported by residential property tax.
At a recent RFP public meeting, Stanley Hayes, a veteran Granby farmer, pointed out that he and other farmers subsist on marginal revenues in the current market. They rely on hay grown on their own and leased land for their livestock, a savings on overhead costs. Hayes and a Granville farmer lease and harvest hay from the East Street farm fields. If the town sells or leases the farm to a larger commercial farm, organic or otherwise, they will have to purchase hay from other sources which will incur additional expense in an already tight budget, and perhaps lose local customers to that competition.
The sale proposal for the East Street farm is $1.2 million dollars. This is far less than what taxpayers paid five years ago at a budget referendum that created long-term debt.
Could we have considered selling a portion of the property for commercial development? That would have produced cash to pay off the long-term debt, increased annual revenue and retained the property’s natural qualities with a well thought out blend of urban and rural use.
We need to get ahead of the curve. I have addressed various points with the BOS and BOF regarding media reach and visibility for the town, the best options for Kearns School and the need for a marketing plan to “sell the town” in Connecticut and outside the state. If we are proud of this community, why not boast about it, cultivate an aura of higher value and Return On Investment? The Plan of Conservation and Development, published in 2016, echos my opinion:
“In an effort to attract future residents and to aid in attracting those residents who will continue to cherish our Fundamental Values, the town should develop a town marketing strategy which identifies the Granby brand. A study committee should therefore be formed, made up of a diverse number of residents, business owners, farmers, school officials and others, to develop a Brand from those attributes, which are broadly outlined within our fundamental values.”
We’ve circled back to the title of this op-ed!
Patricelli-Regan is founder and Executive Director of The Sylvia Davis Patricelli Fine Arts Scholarship Foundation, President of the Foxfield F.A.R.M. (For A Recovery Mission) Foundation. Host of CT Valley Views and former Vice President of Trade and Community Relations for DIAGEO, N.A., She and her husband, William, have lived in Granby for 15 years.