Easements Slow Sale Of McCulloch Property in Old Lyme

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Nearly three weeks after National Trails Day, when the Open Spaces Commission had originally planned to lead a hike across town, not just the hike (there is not yet a complete trail), but also the sale of the McCulloch Farm property is delayed.

“We are pushing for next Friday for a closing,” said Amanda Blair, co-chair of the Open Spaces Commission in Old Lyme at the monthly meeting on June 14. In a later email, Blair explained that “this is a very complex real estate transaction with many people, organizations involved. This said, these easements are a minor issue.”

The easements will not affect public access and will only result in a minor cost, according to Blair.

Closing this Friday appears unlikely given the complexities of a sale that involves three family estates and the town.  

“Just don’t promise anything, it’s going to happen eventually,” said Jane Marsh, an Old Lyme resident and the lawyer representing both the McCulloch family and the estate of Mary Jean Vasiloff.

Eventually, but not fast. Marsh said it is far more important to her to do things correctly, rather than quickly.

“It could take a month, but my experience is if you have enough cooks in the kitchen it can take a long time,” Marsh said.

The anticipation and eagerness for the sale on both the town and the families’ side is evident to Marsh by how many questions she has gotten about when the pending acquisition will be finalized.

“A lot of people have anticipated the event so it is hard to wait,” Marsh said. Marsh herself – like the Open Spaces Commission – did not realize just how complex this sale was before the town hall meeting where the sale received a unanimous vote in favor of the purchase by town residents. “I didn’t realize this myself, just thought it was a piece of land with nothing on it and blah, blah, blah.”

But patience is warranted when generations of easements in the collective memory of McCulloch descendants have never been formalized or written down. There is a lot to clarify, from access to a well located in the center of the property for sale, to which wood roads are still used and must be maintained, to who is allowed to drive vehicles onto the property.

And there are other complications. David McCulloch accidentally conveyed the stone barn on his property to the McCulloch LLC, Blair said.

“You can’t look at the land record and see these things. They just do them out in the real world and nobody even thinks about it until a crossroads like this,” Marsh said. “We need to be totally certain before we actually do the deeds that no easements were forgotten. All the clients have to tell us what’s going on and how they want this done.”

Marsh stressed how important it is that none of the three families involved in this sale and swap of land parcels loses any of their current rights. In addition to the families’ rights, it must be determined if and what town vehicles can drive onto the property – including emergency vehicles – which may require the town fire department to purchase an off-road vehicle.

“Firefighters might need to get an ATV to be able to access the open spaces now that we are talking about the possibility of a cross town trail,” Blair said at the Friday meeting.

Meanwhile the Open Spaces commission has begun planning the dedication and open house for the soon-to-be acquired property as well as other summer events including a plein air painting class by Lyme Art Association planned for July 30.