Republicans Accuse Malloy of Playing Politics with Seaside Park Plan [Hartford Courant]

October 14, 2014

Hartford Courant

Gov. Dannel Malloy’s plan to turn a 32-acre former tuberculosis sanatorium in Waterford into a state park is coming under fire from Republicans who claim the park plan is simply a political maneuver designed to help Malloy’s reelection bid.

Sen. Len Fasano, a GOP legislative leader from North Haven, Friday accused Malloy of violating his own policies by failing to consult with Waterford’s first selectman before dropping locally approved development plans in favor of a park.

Waterford’s Republican first selectman, Dan Steward, said he was left out of the discussions regarding shoreline property known as Seaside. He said he wasn’t notified about the state’s plan to create a state park on the property until a few hours before Malloy’s news conference on Sept. 30th.

“I had no idea this was going on,” Steward said. “I don’t play politics… but this kind of sucked.”

A Malloy spokesman rejected the accusations that the administration is ignoring local officials or playing politics with the Seaside property.

“We have never heard from the first selectman regarding this property,” David Bednarz, a member of the governor’s press office. “The Governor wants an open and collaborative planning process and he wants the community to be involved.”

Bednarz said that’s why Malloy has directed relevant state agencies to conduct public hearings in Waterford as part of the park planning process. Those state agencies have been instructed to report back in January with recommendations for the best ways to develop the new state park.

Malloy has said he decided to cancel a previous contract with a developer for the property because there have been four years of delays. The developer, Mark Steiner, has been entangled in financial problems and lawsuits by Waterford residents opposed to his commercial proposals for the Seaside property.

“Waterford was focused on pursuing a development plan that world have generated new jobs, income and opportunities in the community,” Fasano said in a news release. “But Malloy tossed aside this hard work for a press conference and a few photos.”

Fasano said Malloy’s failure to consult with local officials violates his own “2010 Jobs Roadmap” policy that specifically calls for close cooperation with community leaders on development projects.

“The fact that the governor kept the first selectman out of the loop is a clear sign that this was a political move not done to help the people of Waterford,” said Fasano. His district includes four shoreline area towns, but not Waterford.

Malloy’s plan to create a state park on the property does have the support of two Democratic lawmakers whose districts do include Waterford: Sen. Andrea Stillman and Rep. Betsy Ritter.

Steward said there have been lengthy delays and problems with the proposed development. He said Steiner has been involved with various proposals for Seaside since 2001, and that some of the issues “are still in litigation.”

The development proposals have included an upscale housing complex, and later a plan for a 40-room inn on the land fronting Long Island Sound. Steward said all of those proposals included public access to the waterfront and the beach.