Torres To UI: Park Solar Park Elsewhere–Will Park Board Vote Again?

City Councilman Rick Torres is urging the chief executive officer of United Illuminating to reconsider the company’s partnership with the city to place thousands of solar panels on the old municipal landfill in Seaside Park, writing “The city’s Parks Commission voted unanimously to deny the project. Not only did they vote down the project, but they furthermore added that this type of project is inappropriate for any city park.”

In a letter to UI Chief Executive James Torgerson, Torres lists 11 reasons for opposition including “that there are countless alternative brownfield locations in Bridgeport more appropriate for such a project, the city’s airport may be an alternative location.”

Last week the Parks Commission rejected approval of the solar field at Seaside Park forcing Mayor Bill Finch to revisit a strategy for passage that could include bringing the proposal back to the park board for a vote. City Attorney Mark Anastasi has declared the park board vote was non-binding but several legal observers say Anastasi’s spinning something that will not hold up in a court challenge. The City Charter is clear about the Parks Commission authority regarding the sale or lease of park land. Park board members say the mayor did not pitch them directly on the plan, so the mayor will have to put on a personal schmooze if he can finesse another vote. In voting down the solar park proposal, the park commissioners ruled no solar panels can be placed on any park land. Can a closed dump actually be park land? A title search shows that’s the case, unless the city can argue otherwise.

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. Critics argue the lease as proposed is not a good financial deal for the city.

Letter from Torres to UI:

As you know there has been a great deal of contention into your proposal to put a renewable energy project on Seaside Park. Others and I have waged a vigorous campaign to stop this project. In general we do not oppose the solar and renewable energy initiatives. Here are a few of the many reasons we oppose this particular project:

1. This landfill is situated on historic parkland I have included a copy of a letter from Frederic Law Olmsted Foundation which illustrates Seaside Park’s great history and a copy of a map delineating the area of the National Historic Registration.

2. This land is waterfront, among the most picturesque areas of the city and sits directly across from one of the most important historic areas of the state: Black Rock

3. This landfill has rescued itself and is now completely green and filled with wildlife

4. For thirty years we will not be able to use or to remediate the land

5. Necessity dictates that the UI must put a barbed wire fence and flood light the area to keep children from electrocuting themselves

6. The project includes a FuelCell which would be on non-contaminated park land and that that FuelCell will emit a constant flow of water and Carbon Dioxide vapor into the air in the park

7. That other landfills near Bridgeport, have been effectively restored to public use (Oyster Shell Park in Norwalk)

8. That the EPA Long Island Sound Study through the Fish and Wildlife Administration, offers grants to municipalities to restore waterfront situated near or on Long Island Sound

9. That the project is overly generous to the UI to the detriment of the city

10. that there are countless alternative brownfield locations in Bridgeport more appropriate for such a project, the city’s airport may be an alternative location

11. That the highly contaminated Raybestos superfund site in Stratford is an ideal location for this project as it has no other known uses

As you know this project faces an uphill battle. For this project to move forward in Seaside Park it requires that the city violate its own Charter. Here is the language which restricts the city and puts a legal cloud over the entire project.

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.

The city attorney representing the project on behalf of the administration testified that the UI Title Search provided proof the land to be park land.

The city’s Parks Commission voted unanimously to deny the project. Not only did they vote down the project, but they furthermore added that this type of project is inappropriate for any city park.

The city administration is in a huddle with all necessary staff to attempt to abrogate this clear restriction in our Charter.

It seems to me, however, that your company must follow the rules, regulations and laws. You are responsible to your shareholders to act prudently. The Parks Commission decision is clear. The City Charter is clear. An investment of 22 million dollars by your company ought to be safe.

Even if the mayor is somehow capable of turning the Parks Commission around, now that the city has admitted that the land is park land the whole application to PURA must be restarted. I have been in communication with representatives from PURA and they have reopened the application.

I’m sorry that this project went along for so long without any input from opponents. I’m sure that you were completely caught off guard, much like how we were caught off guard in October of 2013 when we found out about it. If you wish to meet with me and hear my presentation, I will most happily comply.



  1. This project will cost this city and taxpayers millions of dollars and get back nothing in return. It’s a lose-lose for this city.
    The liability for this city is unfathomable, someone will get hurt or killed on this methane field we call a landfill.
    Without a hold-harmless agreement in this contract we may be paying someone for the rest of their life. Any city attorney worth his salt would never agree to sign this contract without an HHA first and foremost. The UI made sure they had an HHA in place, so whose project is this anyway? The taxpayers?

    1. Jimfox, don’t worry. A member of your slate has a better plan–it’s the only way GREEN energy can be a win-win for the city. I’m surprised with the great number of smart OIB readers and posters, no one seems to have a better way to handle the opportunity. On second thought, no I’m not surprised.

      1. Bob,
        We both have observed the contentious history of Lordship/Stratford neighbors and the Sikorsky Airport property (owned by Bridgeport). However the $42 Million project is going to happen we have to assume with mostly Federal funds and their rules so something broke the deadlock.
        Solar facilities have received some support by the FAA I read and were the UI to pursue, perhaps there would be revenue for Stratford. As well as some income for Bridgeport operating budget. And no hold-harmless issues relating to toxic materials. If you can think of more reasons, perhaps there will be enough for everyone to move off the dime. Even the UI. Time will tell.

  2. Finch dictates what Anastasi and McCarthy say, plain and simple. Of course this project doesn’t belong in the park, how dare Finch ignore what the taxpayers and park commissioners are saying? I still wanna know what’s in this for Finch personally, no Mayor worth his salt would agree to such a one-sided contract that does nothing for his city. Shame on all of them.

  3. In 2008, the City of Bridgeport paid UI $5,008,000 for electrical utility service (more recent costs under review). Assuming the city will continue to consume the same amount of electricity in the next 20 years, the city will have paid $100,160,000 for electrical utility service to UI.
    The city’s cost for electrical utilities services covers expenditures for all city-owned buildings and facilities (the Zoo is not) including BOE facilities. Not sure who pays for WPC electrical utility service, however considering the ratepayers cover the cost, one can include this expense to the real numbers.
    Mayor Green Jeans is now determined to turn over the Seaside Landfill to UI for $350,000 for the next 20-plus years. Why can’t the city build the Solar Facility and provide the electricity the city pays for? Why is it after three years of negotiations with UI and six years of thinking GREEN, there hasn’t been a hint of the city considering building the renewable energy facility ourselves? There is plenty of room on the roof of our schools and other city facilities as well as the landfill to make our own energy and sell the surplus electricity. For $350,000 a year for 20 years ($7 million), the city is willing to give up the potential of saving approximately $100,000,000 or more; the opportunity to produce and buy its own electricity. I bet Bill Finch and the other people behind this type of scam have lots of money invested in energy stocks. What other way is there to explain this? Oh yeah, pay to play.

  4. I may as well add to this as I don’t expect anyone else to catch it. There are two parts that must be in place in order for the Speedy Plan to work. One is the building of the Solar and/or Fuel Cell facility. The other is the means of distributing the electricity–poles and wires. UI owns the poles and wires. Mayor Green Jeans would try to dismiss my idea by stating the above. Speedy would respond by reminding Mayor Green Jeans the city owns the land the poles are on or wires buried. So in order to get UI to play nice with the taxpayers, I would introduce a resolution with language meant to charge UI a fee of $500 to $1,000 per pole on city-owned land. The longer UI takes to agree to the deal, the more time I’ll reduce the period of the fee per pole. If the UI takes three months, the fee will be charged or due every nine months. If they take six months, the fee is due every six months and so on. After one year of waiting, the fee will be reduced to $100 a day per pole and wires on city land. When there’s a will, there’s a way. Bridgeport residents must demand the policy of Pay to Play with the Taxpayers.

    If you own a motor vehicle stored in Bridgeport (015), you must pay motor vehicle tax. If you own land, commercial or residential property you must pay taxes. If you’re late or delinquent on your taxes, you pay a late fee and interest. Businesses pay a fee for all sorts of licenses: Barber, Sandwiches, Cigarettes, Health Inspection, Food Vending. The UI gets a free ride and the City always stands on their side. Why? More on UI to come. Stay tuned.


    Black Rock has, St. Mary’s by the Sea.
    Black Rock has, the highest taxes in the nation!
    Black Rock has, the most potholes in the City.
    Black Rock has, the laziest incumbents on the DTC.
    Black Rock will have a Solar Farm to look at
    if Danny Roach and Bill Finch get their way.

    On Tuesday March 4th, Vote Line C for a change, Black Rock!

  6. Here is a posting from the CT Post website the other day.
    Should Mayor Finch/Council replace Parks Brd. over solar snub?
    Posted on February 21, 2014 | By Brian Lockhart

    It’s not unusual for members of Bridgeport’s various boards/commissions to continue to serve with expired terms, which is legal until they are replaced.

    The Parks Commission this week became an unusual source of controversy when members voted against Mayor Bill Finch’s plans to install 9,000 solar panels atop a closed landfill.

    Below is the list of members and when their terms were up. That’s were up. Notice the dates, a couple six years old.

    While it’s possible the list might need updating, Chairman Mark Marko Thursday confirmed that all of the members’ terms have expired.

    The City Attorney this week dismissed the Parks Commission’s vote as “advice,” indication the Finch administration may seek some legal way to ignore the group and move ahead with the solar plan.

    It’s not implausible to think solar boosters might also be thinking it’s high time to replace the “no votes” on the Parks Commission.

    So does anyone think that Bill Finch will try for a Saturday night massacre? Would the council sit back and allow that to happen? Would such an action have a chilling effect on all city boards and Commissions?

    1. Mayor Finch has allowed appointments to current terms to get worse each year. Note the Charter directs two appointments by the Mayor to this group every 12/31 cycle. He has not done this for five years. And the reason is?

      Well, the reason the Mayor would suggest is no one wants to volunteer; it takes such a great deal of time to review applications for appropriateness; and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, maybe?

      Well the Parks vote broke in an unexpected way, and the idea of a Saturday night massacre, especially with the precise annual duty he has ignored would probably go down the wrong way and add to his problems. But an assistant from the CAO office is working on moving names through Miscellaneous Matters Committee. But at two per month using February as an example. it may take 6-8 years to make everything up to date. What about evaluating those who currently serve? If they attend with regularity, if they participate well and often, and if they come prepared and take all training available, identifying all conflicts of interest when they arise, maybe they ought to serve another term or two. But there is no evaluation done and little if any training offered or required today. Time will tell.

  7. *** More than likely, for political show this item will go back in front of the Parks Board and the Mayor beforehand will make a few phone calls to some of his handpicked parks board members, unlike last time! With that, provide pizza and soda for them the night of the parks board meeting, just in case of an early start or late-ending meeting. Now the parks board can say they were better prepared this time around and have had much more time to review the “same” UI documents presented at the last meeting, with of course a “new legal recommendation” from the city attorney’s office that puts it all into “green” perspective, no? *** HERE WE GO! ***


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