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Legal Opinion Sought on Proposed Equestrian Center

By Jeffrey B. Cohen

March 03, 2009

The plan to build a new $65 million equestrian center on at least 60 acres of Keney Park is on the agenda of the council's planning and economic development committee tonight.

But Councilman Matt Ritter, who chairs the committee, said he doesn't plan on taking the matter up. Not yet, anyway.

"I'm not even going to talk about it until we have a legal opinion," Ritter said.

(Photo courtesy of Shipman & Goodwin.)

Ritter wants the city's attorneys to let him know whether the city's deed for Keney Park would even allow for an equestrian center along the lines of that proposed by the Ebony Horsewomen.

The horsewomen, led by Patricia Kelly, want the city to declare the organization the "tentative developer" for roughly 200 acres of land at the park. Supporters of the Ebony Horsewomen have come out to praise both the plan and Kelly's work. They, and Kelly, say an equestrian center would bring needed economic development to one of the city's poorest areas.

But neighbors who don't want to lose parkland in their back yards have come out to oppose the plan, as have a series of neighborhood groups. Councilman Luis Cotto, who chairs the city's parks committee, has come out decidedly against to the plan as well.

Ritter said that when the Keney family donated the park, they intended it to be used as parkland.

And even though there may be language in the deed that allows horses in the park, horses are one thing. An equestrian park is another, Ritter said. So he wants the city's attorneys to weigh in.

Even if the legal opinion comes down in favor of the Ebony Horsewomen, Ritter said he's not optimistic the plan has a real chance of making it out of the council.

"I would be surprised if it passed," Ritter said. "I don't see it having the votes."

Reprinted with permission of the CityLine blog of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the CityLine at http://blogs.courant.com/cityline/ and the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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