Updated 2:34 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 7
The town voted to approve both a $12 million project to expand Riverfront Park and adding $2 million to the town’s land acquisition fund during Tuesday’s elections.
Voters overwhelmingly approved both ballot questions at the polls Tuesday, with more votes cast for the referendum issues than nearly any other race but the presidential.
Voters supported the Riverfront Park Expansion Project by a margin of 10,997 to 6,458; more affirmative votes for a single item on the ballot than any other.
“We’re thrilled,” Heather Summers, founder of the “Back to the Riverfront” political action committee, said. “This is something that will be a legacy to the town for generations.”
The project first began in the early 1990’s, when the land was purchased and restored; they were originally old oil tanker fields.
“It’s been a very exciting and challenging project,” Summers said.
The new park expansion plans grants the town its first public access to the Connecticut River in the town’s history, and also includes a lighted basketball court, public skating rink, scenic walkways, and boat ramps for motorized and non-motorized boats, including emergency vehicles.
The plan also includes a $4 million two-story boathouse, which would serve as home for Glastonbury High School’s crew team, and is including workout and storage areas for the club. The 18,500-square-foot boathouse would also provide easy access to the waterfront for the first time in the town’s history, and would include workout rooms and storage areas for the team. The boathouse will also include public restrooms, a second-story observation deck, and a multi-purpose room for public use.
The town received a $2.42 million state grant for the second story of the boathouse.
The total cost of the project, after expected grants and state funding, would be approximately $7.7 million. The cost per year for Glastonbury homeowners with properties assessed at $200,000 would range about $30 per year over the next five years.
Land Acquisition Fund
The town also approved adding $2 million to the land acquisition by a margin of 9,782 to 7,003.
Glastonbury’s land acquisition fund was first conceived in 1988; since then, the fund has helped the town acquire more than 1,500 acres of land. With just $1.5 million remaining in the fund, the town approved adding the $2 million for upcoming purchases and potential acquisitions.
During a meeting in August when they voted unanimously to approve sending the ballot question to referendum, members of the Town Council were also quick to point out that the $2 million in funding only gives them the authorization to purchase properties that become available, and isn’t a guarantee that the funds will be spent. Once a property is acquired, the town must hold two public hearing and then the council must vote to release the funds.
Town voters have historically supported the fund. Voters approved adding $2 million to the fund in 1988, 1997 and 2009—the last time money was added to the fund. They also approved $3 million for the fund in 1999, 2001, and 2003. They supported a $4 million addition in 2004 and 2007.