What a difference two weeks make. On February 17, the Parks Commission voted unanimously to reject Mayor Bill Finch’s proposal to construct thousands of solar panels on the old dump at Seaside Park. Monday night they had a change of heart unanimously approving a 20-year partnership with United Illuminating. The lease arrangement now goes to the City Council for approval.
Two weeks ago, attended by two dozen South End and Black Rock residents opposed to the plan, commissioners voted no to the city’s presentation with several saying they were not briefed in advance. Black Rock City Councilman Rick Torres had led the opposition. In the days after the vote, Finch and Parks Commission Chairman Mark Marko called a special meeting for Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Morton Government Center. The commission meeting went late into Monday night. Two weeks ago commissioners had expressed concerns about the construction puncturing the cap on the former landfill that city and United Illuminating officials apparently addressed to their satisfaction Monday night.
Commissioner Ann Owens, who voted against the plan two weeks ago, was unable to attend Monday’s meeting. The other commissioners who had voted no reversed themselves Monday night. Dozens of residents speaking for and against the proposal attended.
On February 17, Associate City Attorney Ron Pacacha told commissioners that a title search showed the closed landfill is located on parkland.
As the City Council prepares to vote on this matter, likely at its next scheduled meeting March 17, a larger question looms: must the council approve this by a two-thirds vote or is a simple majority sufficient?
From the City Charter:
Section 13. Sale or lease of park land.
No parks or park land belonging to the city shall be sold or capital leased unless such sale or capital lease is recommended by the board of park commissioners and approved by a two-thirds vote of the entire membership of the city council, both bodies having conducted a public hearing prior to taking any action. Any such approval may be disapproved by the mayor, in the manner provided in Chapter Five of this charter.
Last October Finch announced a city partnership with United Illuminating for the Green Energy Park renewable energy project, one of the initiatives proposed in the City’s BGreen 2020 sustainability plan to create jobs, save taxpayers money and fight climate change. The green energy project will cut down on UI’s dependence on fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions for citywide UI customers. The 20-year lease with UI calls for $7 million in payments to the city over the life of the arrangement.
More on Monday night’s meeting from CT Post reporter Brian Lockhart here.