March 10, 2005
By JEFFREY B. COHEN, Courant Staff Writer
The city won't try to annex parkland it owns in neighboring towns,
but it still doesn't want to pay taxes on it, officials said
That change is the sentiment behind a proposed amendment to
a city-backed bill in the state legislature - one that took city
neighbors by surprise and would have allowed Hartford to extend
its borders into Windsor and Wethersfield.
But in an effort that would achieve the same end - to save city
money - Mayor Eddie A. Perez has decided to change his tack.
The proposed amendment to
the bill says that "no municipality
shall be required" to pay taxes or payments in lieu of taxes
on park land it owns in neighboring towns as long the park is
kept open to the residents of the neighboring towns.
"We welcome our regional neighbors to use our parks and
facilities. We just don't want to be taxed for parks and facilities
we provide to our regional neighbors," said Matt Hennessy,
Perez's chief of staff. Although the proposed annexation bill
would have resolved the mayor's concern over fiscal fairness,
the narrowly written amendment would as well, Hennessy said.
"It's an issue when you're the poorest city in the state
paying a tax to its suburban neighbors for a park the city is
providing to its suburban neighbors," Hennessy said. "That
just doesn't seem to make much sense."
One hundred and seven acres of Goodwin Park lie within Wethersfield,
and 160 acres of Keney Park are in Windsor. The city pays to
maintain the parks entirely. It also pays about $114,000 to the
two towns in lieu of taxes - an annual payment the city is under
court order to make.
Though public land is tax-exempt, a Superior Court judge ruled
in the early 1990s that parts of Goodwin Park and Keney Park
The reason: Those portions of the parks are golf courses that
are managed by a private, for-profit company, American Golf Corp.
The original proposal concerned suburban officials in neighboring
towns, including West Hartford, where Elizabeth Park straddles
the border with Hartford.
The amended language to the proposed bill will soon be presented
to the chairman of the legislature's planning and development
committee, Hennessy said.
But the amendment still doesn't address all of the concerns
of Hartford's neighbors.
"What still bothers me is, why are we even going through
the legislative process?" asked Bonnie Therrien, Wethersfield
town manager. "Why can't the city of Hartford pick up the
phone and call us and say, `Is there a way we could work this
Progress was made toward a reasonable solution more than a year
ago, she said. But the discussions ended without a resolution
- Windsor and Wethersfield are still waiting on information from
American Golf Corp., she said.
Next thing she knew, though, there was a bill in the legislature
to annex part of her town, she said.
"I don't see why communities can't sit down and talk about
this. No one has ever called me," she said. "There's
a win-win here for everybody if people talk."
Windsor Mayor Donald Trinks hasn't heard from Hartford, either,
he said. And although he can't blame the city for trying to reduce
its expenses in tight budget times, he was hoping for a more
cooperative spirit, he said.
"Mayor Perez and I have a good enough relationship. I would
have welcomed his call to discuss it," Trinks said. "And
I certainly would have brought the issue to my council."
But Hennessy said that talking had been unsuccessfully explored
before, and added that legislative action does not preclude conversations
with neighboring towns.
"We've tried to [talk] a few times over the years, as recently
as last year or the year before, and we got no response," he
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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