DARIEN — The town is working to finalize the nearly $800,000 purchase of another piece of Great Island, following a “complicated” negotiation process.
At a Monday meeting of the Representative Town Meeting Rules Committee, First Selectman Jon Zagrodzky announced that Darien is under contract to purchase the traffic circle which leads visitors to the entrance of the Great Island for $792,010.
While Darien initially appropriated $103 million for its purchase of Great Island in May, the price dropped by about $18 million. If approved by the RTM and the Environmental Protection Commission next month, Zagrodzky explained, the town will use some of those leftover funds to buy the traffic circle.
Zagrodzky said Darien chose not to include the traffic circle in its initial acquisition of Great Island because the pieces of land were separately owned by two local families — the Steinkrauses and the Zieglers.
The Steinkraus family, who owned Great Island for more than 100 years, sold the land to the town in May, but the Ziegler family still owns the adjacent properties, including the traffic circle and a 50-acre section known as Ziegler’s Farm.
“It was too hard to try and get all of those parties together to perform a simultaneous transaction to get that to work,” Zagrodzky said. “And so it really just effectively meant that the traffic circle was going to be later.”
The traffic circle provides access from the town-owned Pear Tree Point Road and Rings End Road to both Great Island and Ziegler’s Farm.
Zagrodzky said the purchase of the traffic circle has been in the works for a while, but took time as negotiations coincided with the separate sale of Ziegler’s Farm. The subdivision was put on the market for $85 million last year, and Zagrodzky said it’s currently under contract for purchase.
According to the sellers, the first selectman said, only $10 of the traffic circle purchase price will go to the Ziegler family, and the remaining $792,000 will be given to the farm’s buyer to install privacy screens, such as fencing and shrubbery.
“To get the traffic circle purchase negotiated while, at the same time, trying to navigate the negotiation with the sale of the Ziegler property to this buyer was extraordinarily complicated,” he said.
Zagrodzky said the final cost of the traffic circle is about 34 percent higher than its appraised value of $560,000. However, he explained that the town cannot discuss the details of the negotiation as the involved parties signed non-disclosure agreements at the seller’s request.
While the traffic circle is currently not open for public use, Zagrodzky said the purchase would mean that Darien officially owns all of the roads leading to Great Island — a key step in opening the property to residents.
The public is barred from entering Great Island until summer 2024, as the town is remediating some arsenic contamination and plans to widen the access road that leads visitors to the traffic circle.
Zagrodzky told the RTM committee members that, if approved, the purchase of the traffic circle should be finalized by mid-December.
Before the RTM committee meeting, the Board of Selectmen unanimously approved the purchase agreement. But in order to finalize the deal, it must be reviewed by the Planning and Zoning Commission on Nov. 28, the Environmental Protection Committee on Dec. 6 and the full RTM on Dec. 11.