City Council Committee Approves Sale Of Eight Acres Of Golf Course Land To Sacred Heart For $4 Million

Chief of Staff Danny Roach addresses City Council members next to map of Fairchild Wheeler golf course.
Chief of Staff Danny Roach addresses City Council members next to map of Fairchild Wheeler golf course.

UPDATE: The City Council’s Contracts Committee Wednesday night by a 5-0 vote approved the sale of eight acres of “excess” golf course property at Fairchild Wheeler to Sacred Heart University for $4 million that had been previously approved by the Parks Commission. Sacred Heart wants the park property that abuts its campus for land coverage purposes to satisfy zoning regulations to allow the school to continue its major growth on campus proper in Fairfield. Fairchild Wheeler is owned by the city but located in the Town of Fairfield.

A public hearing on the measure will take place June 1 at Geraldine Johnson School before it goes to the full City Council for a vote likely at its June 6 meeting.

Mayor Joe Ganim’s Chief of Staff Danny Roach opened the meeting explaining the city would receive $4 million in exchange for selling the eight acres that will allow SHU to expand its footprint on campus proper in Fairfield.

“They will not be allowed to build, develop it … it will be untouchable,” said Roach of the wooded-wet land. “They cannot develop anything.”

Associate City Attorney Lisa Trachtenburg who negotiated the proposed land transaction with SHU told the committee that SHU, in the city’s protection, can only improve dying trees. “Absent that they cannot do anything to the property.”

Associate City Attorney Mark Anastasi added, “there will be no change, no physical impact to the transaction … they want to build on a larger footprint but not this piece … Lisa has an iron-clad provision in the deed.” Anastasi, upon questioning by council members, declared that $500,000 per acre is a handsome price

City Council President Tom McCarthy added that SHU leadership has been more open about Bridgeport issues. “We’re trying to get more students out of the neighborhood and onto the campus,” he said, a reference to SHU students renting apartments in the North End. “This will provide larger coverage space to build dorms on their own property. I think this is a good idea, we get money and allows us to put more students on campus and out of the neighborhoods.”

Trachtenburg said the $4 million can go to the general fund because the Parks Commission unanimously recommended that the money go to the general fund as a result of the property not changing usage. She added that there is precedence for park sale proceeds going to the general fund, instead of park capital improvements, when the state of Connecticut purchased Beardsley Park from the city in the early 1990s. She also stated there is legal precedence from a court decision that upheld park sale proceeds going to the general fund.

Ganim would like to add the revenue for the budget year that starts July 1.

State Rep. Jack Hennessy who represents the North End attended the meeting. He said afterward that it’s a good deal for the city. “The city gets $4 million and the property is untouched.”

Contracts Committee members Anthony Paoletto, Milta Feliciano, Richard Salters, Jeanette Heron and Alfredo Castillo voted to approve.

North End councilwoman Michelle Lyons who is not a Contracts Committee member said so far she’s received a mixed reaction from constituents about the land sale.

The sparsely attended meeting took place in the Democratic Caucus Room of City Hall.

The Parks Commission last week also approved a proposal by Sacred Heart to build six new tennis courts on Veterans Memorial Park across the street from the campus on Park Avenue. SHU will maintain the courts and allow Bridgeport residents usage, according to Anastasi.

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28 comments

  1. The City Attorney’s claim the $4 million can legally go into the General Fund is, simply stated, without basis in fact or law. The Charter requirement is crystal clear. It requires “all moneys received from the sale of park department property” go into the Park Capital Improvement Fund. There are no exceptions to that requirement.

    The proceeds of such a sale can only be used for the purpose of “relocating, equipping, acquiring or developing park properties.”

    You’ll note nothing in the Charter allows the Park Board to waive the requirement or to permit the money to be used for other purposes. That is not a coincidence. The provision was put into place in order to deter the practice of selling park land for short-term financial gain. Remember the Route 25 fiasco?

    Under the City Charter the City Treasurer’s responsibility is clear. Let’s see if she follows the Mayor’s direction or the requirements of the law.

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  2. I believe what Phil said is 100% correct. It is truly asinine of the City Attorney’s Office to suggest this practice is legal. And you can be sure the weak-kneed council members just sat there like children and did what they were told.
    Based on this precedent I guess any board or commission can override the charter by a unanimous vote.
    Back to the future with Joe Ganim and his evil ways of ignoring rules to get his own way. Bad day for the city of B’port.

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  3. Clearly, this committee and other city offices involved don’t understand the implications to the City of Bridgeport of accommodating SHU growth, or they don’t care. (The Route-25 saga was a good historical comparison of the city accommodating predatory overtures by hostile/indifferent entities seeking to gain from the city’s vulnerability.)

    In any event, elected and appointed city officials have demonstrated either incompetence and/or negligence in their statutory obligations to the people of Bridgeport and need to be held accountable. It certainly appears there is an evolving case for pursuing investigations into malfeasance in office of these officials.

    This is very, very disappointing. It is as if municipal elections haven’t been held in Bridgeport for 60 years. There has been virtually no interruption in the corrupt, incompetent leadership and representation in Bridgeport city government since the last term of Jasper McLevy. Coupled with the simultaneous incompetence and corruption at the state and federal level for much of the same time period, it is no wonder why the city, state, and country are undergoing the political convulsions and dry heaves that we have seen in the federal party primary process, in the state budget process, and in the city electoral process over the past year.

    And we wonder why there is so much hopelessness among the youth of this city and why they are so willing to resort to criminal enterprise and violence to secure a “viable” economic and social status in this city. Look at what is trying to pass for “leadership” in city government in Bridgeport these days. No wonder why the people of Bridgeport won’t use energy to get to the polls at election time, they have come to realize no matter how they vote, they are voting against their own best interest. This is not lost on the young people of this city.

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    1. Corrupt, incompetent leadership and representation in Bridgeport city government? You mean like electing Mario and his convicted felon? What idiot thought that was a good idea, Jeff?

      Has anyone ever thought of voting Republican since the Democrats are not doing so well? The best platform for change is to keep electing the people you always elect to do the things they always do.

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  4. If it happened once, it can happen again. In the name of setting a budget, urban policy watchers think Bridgeport took another step toward becoming The De-Park City.

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  5. Lisa Trachtenburg???
    Isn’t she the city attorney who handled the airport land fiasco; otherwise know as Manny’s driveway?
    And in that case a state Superior Court Judge rules the city didn’t have to pay a dime to Manny.
    Come on Lisa.
    Will Manny get to park some of his heavy equipment there for free? Seems like that should be part of the deal.
    Only In Bridgeport!!!

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  6. Comparing this to the Beardsley Park transfer is not accurate. Beardsley Park remained a park. It was Lowell Weiker coming to the aid of Bridgeport, something he would not do while Mary Moran was mayor. It was a bailout. I know. I was there.
    There is legal precedent for proceeds of sale of parkland going directly to the general fund? What is the precedent? Did the city council members review it? The Parks Board can override the charter?
    If this were Fairfield or Trumbull, this would not happen. If it did, there would be a lawsuit quickly filed by residents.

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    1. The Beardsley Park sale to the state took place when the City of Bridgeport’s finances were under the control of the state Financial Review Board, which, if memory serves, had the power to override the Charter.

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  7. No, this isn’t a bad deal, this is a great deal!
    $500k per acre for inland wetlands?
    Bridgeport hasn’t seen a deal like this since Sal DiNardo walked away from the City Council after settling a $10 million tax debt for $315k.
    Unless SHU has a new recipe for skunk cabbage stew?
    This is a home run!

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    1. SHU Shunk Cabbage Stew

      Sauté Garlic and onions in a frying pan

      Add 2 heads of skunk Cabbage – High in Sulfur and antioxidents – a staple of the Men’s Wrestling team.

      2 cups of chicken broth.

      2 bay leaves
      2 tablespoons of celery root
      1 Opossum – cleaned and filleted
      4 carrots Julienned
      1 can crushed tomatoes
      2 large potatoes cut into cubes
      1 parsnip peeled and diced.
      1 green/red and orange pepper.
      1 cup of fresh peas
      2 stalks of celery diced

      simmer for 1 hour on low.

      serve over brown rice.

      Guaranteed to taste exactly as it smells.

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    2. Here is a 1/3-acre building lot for sale near the SHU property.
      203 Folino Dr.
      Bridgeport, CT 06606
      0.3 acre @ $99,900

      By this, one acre would go for $300K if this parcel actually goes for $99.9K.

      By this comparison the $500K/acre SHU paid is a good deal.

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    1. Fairfield’s TPZ will never approve this as upland, the people from Stratfield will jump all over this, and stop SHU from expansion for trying to add this as campus acres.
      If there is a contingency clause on the purchase of the wetland, then Bridgeport will be flucked!

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      1. Jim,
        I don’t know if zoning works this way in Fairfield, but it sure sounds like it. In many places you are permitted to do all your allowed building on one part of a parcel provided you leave the rest of the parcel untouched. This allows the zoning entity to limit development “on average” or “in total.” So having a larger parcel means more building is permitted, though not necessarily on the newly acquired land. This also serves to keep the newly acquired land “undeveloped” as its potential has already be used elsewhere and would not be permitted by zoning.

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        1. Booty, in most cases you’re right, while it adds to the mass, it does nothing to alleviate the density.
          The Zoners will see this as a self-inflected hardship.

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  8. City Council President Tom McCarthy said this sale will allow Sacred Heart to build additional dorms to get those students out of the homes in the North End. The question that should have been asked is does this allow SHU to increase its enrollment which would have no impact on off-campus living.

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  9. This deal is all about the SHU monster expanding its tentacles and encroaching farther and farther in the North End until it completely obliterates the residential North End between Park Avenue south to God knows where. This city is being sold out–literally–by those entrusted with its stewardship.

    Tom McCarthy’s comment, coming from someone who should absolutely know better, speaks loudly for the need to get him out of Bridgeport politics. He is one of the chief architects of this city’s progressive slide toward demise.

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  10. Back to the golf course.
    He took me to school. ‘Nothing’s better than turning water into wine.’ At least, that’s what the Wise Man told me. He said: ‘Mayor Ganim found a way to change water (swampland) into wine (happy budget) and that’s what leaders do.’ That’s when he left to meet Jimfox for lunch.

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