Long Beach Mess

My feature on Long Beach West, an abandoned collection of cottages on a barrier beach in Stratford, Connecticut is the cover story of this week’s Fairfield County Weekly.

It’s probably not terribly interesting if you don’t live in Stratford, but if you do, the story may come as a shock. The agreement to sell the beach to the federal government was sold to the citizens on the promise that Stratford would receive $10 million for the land. But as I show, that number is a made-up one:

Lisa Bassani, project manager for the Trust for Public Land, says that TPL and Stratford each did their own appraisals, resulting in two different numbers — one lower (TPL’s) and one higher (Stratford’s). They “split it down the middle” and mutually settled on a value of $10 million.

Bassani says TPL will submit a new appraisal to the Fish and Wildlife Service that adheres to Yellow Book standards. French says the appraisal must then be approved by the Appraisal Services Directorate, an office of the Department of the Interior. The Service cannot pay more than the figure listed in the appraisal — which could be less than $10 million, especially considering TPL’s previous appraisal.

I asked Ms. Bassani: If the FWS values the land at less than $10 million, will TPL still pay $10 mil to Stratford and then sell the land at a loss to FWS, perhaps using grants or donations to make up the difference? She said no. So if the Yellow Book appraisal comes back with a lesser valuation, there’s no way Stratford is going to receive $10 million — bad news to the two-thirds of Stratford voters who agreed to sell the land in a 2008 referendum.

My photo essay of Long Beach West is here.

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