The Mansfield Town Council voted Monday night to accept a donation of land known as the Hank’s Hill property to be preserved as open space in perpetuity.
Mr. Mark Taylor, the current owner of the property located on Hank’s Hill Road near Route 195, has agreed to donate the land on the condition that it remains town open space indefinitely, and said the addition of this small park will protect an area of town from future development.
“This area of town is prone to be developed over the years, because of its proximity to downtown Storrs and the university,” Taylor said.
The council’s six to three decision to accept the donation was reached in the culmination of a half-hour’s discussion on the subject on Monday’s meeting. The contract between the Town of Mansfield and Mr. Taylor stipulates that he must provide for signage and a bench for the land, and that he is to donate $5,000 to offset future costs of upkeep on the property.
The proposal met with resistance from some councilmembers due to the nature of the contract and its conditions.
“I have no problem with the donation and the town accepting it,” said councilwoman Elizabeth Wassmundt. “I have problems with the contract, the agreement.”
Wassmundt added that the gifted land might turn out to be more of a burden to the town due to its limited use.
“The restriction ‘in perpetuity’ is a problem for me,” Wassmundt said. “Again, because, as a body you are representing the people in the town, and you’re restricting the town, the town’s use of that property.”
Councilman Robert Schurin disagreed with this prospective acquisition on a financial basis.
“The town would be forgoing property tax revenue which as of this year, on this parcel of land, is $1716.94,” Schurin said.
Councilman David Freudmann opposed the Hank’s Hill property’s acquisition as well, agreeing with Schurin’s financial qualms and citing his opposition to adding more open spaces to Mansfield, which could instead be used for property development.
“We have so much [open space] already,” Freudmann said. “The land that’s in preservation is 22 percent… I’m not a big fan of open space.”
Though Freudmann, Wassmundt and Schurin voted against the motion to accept the land parcel, the majority of the council voted to accept it.
The council also discussed revising the town’s charter, as the councilmembers are required to discuss this every five years, which was open for the public to comment on.
A main point of discussion for the councilmembers was whether or not to open town budgets to such a referendum. Councilwoman Terry Berthelot raised the concern that some citizens, especially parents and late-shift workers, might be unable to attend the town meeting for voting for a budget.
“There is a need for a vote so that you do have the participation of the public,” Berthelot said. “Certainly you should allow the people to come and vote as they can.”
Councilman Freudmann expressed displeasure with the “inconsistency” of the current system by which budgets are ratified.
“Either you make it easy for people to vote or you don’t,” Freudmann said. “If you’re going to have a public vote, then make it easy for people to vote.”
Mansfield resident Brian Anderson opposed a referendum, a system of government which he said hampered budgeting for previous towns he had lived in
“Look at some of our surrounding towns, and the havoc that has been wrought by a change in the charter,” Anderson said. “I’ve lived in two towns where budget referendums basically rendered the Board of Education and Town Council nonexistent.”
Councilman Ben Shaiken opposed revising the charter because its importance to the town’s function, he said.
“Our charter is everything,” Shaiken said. “I mean, this is basically the constitution of the town.”
Ben Wiles, a Mansfield resident, expressed a need for modernization of the town charter. “I think there are some very good reasons to reopen the charter,” Wildes said. “I think we should look at the ways that referendums are initiated and petitions are submitted, particularly in light of growing acceptance of electronic signatures.”
After deliberating, the council voted to table revising the charter until September 2019.
Sachin Menon is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org .