Concerns grow over use of farm as Derby High School site  
                    By GREG SHULAS      gshulas@ctpost.com     Sunday, April 15, 2001

                    DERBY -- Critics are raising environmental and quality-of-life concerns over
                    the farmland site proposed as the home for a new public high school. 

                    Backers of the plan say the 25.5-acre lot at Field View Farm on Route 34 and
                    Sodom Lane offers many advantages: It's a flat patch in a city of hills and its
                    owner is eager to sell. 

                    But some city residents say they're worried about potential contamination from
                    a nearby trucking operation and a stream that runs by the property from the
                    former Derby landfill. 

                    We don't want a Hamden Middle School in Derby, said city resident John
                    Kowarik, referring to a Hamden school that was built on tainted land. 

                    Residents also worry about the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. natural gas
                    transmission line that passes underneath the site, which they say could pose a
                    safety hazard. 

                    Kowarik said the city should consider changing its plan to have the school's
                    main entrance over the pipeline.  If there's a leak, he said, there would be no
                    escape route. 

                    The Derby High School Building Committee picked the Field View Farm
                    parcel last month as the site for the proposed new high school.  It was one of six
                    locations under consideration. 

                    The committee has recommended a new high school to ease crowding at the
                    existing Nutmeg Avenue school.  Voters will decide whether to move ahead
                    with the plan in a referendum, most likely in June. 

                    Costs could run $31 million, but local taxpayers would pay only $13 million
                    after state reimbursements, officials said.  Officials have not disclosed a price for
                    the Field View Farm parcel, which is still under negotiation. 

                    Before buying the parcel, the city will ensure that environmental studies are
                    conducted, said Rick Dunne, the city's director of development and
                    administration. 

                    If it is contaminated with a hazardous substance, the city won't purchase the
                    site.  But the study will take some time, he said.  The stream that runs near the lot
                    has been monitored for years but has not yielded evidence of toxins, he said. 

                    Field View Farm is believed to be the state's oldest family farm, owner Walter
                    Hine said. It dates back to 1639 and has been in Hine's family 11 generations,
                    he said. 

                    The proposed high school would occupy just a small part of the farm, he said.  
                    The trucking operation is also on the Hines property, but it's in a separate area.  
                    Hine said those parcels are small parts of Field View Farms' total acreage and
                    said he plans to continue to work the fields. 

                    Hine said all his vehicles and facilities are licensed by the state Department of
                    Environmental.  Everything is up to par, he said. 

                    That's not enough for local resident Ron Chirgwin.  He said locating the high
                    school at the site would create long-term problems -- not the least of which
                    would be more traffic. 

                    Traffic is backed up early in the morning, he said.  There is always a line of
                    traffic.  My neighbor counted 275 [vehicles] in one hour.  For a small road like
                    Sodom Lane, that is a lot. 

                    Chirgwin thinks the city should expand the current high school on Nutmeg
                    Avenue, rather than build a new one. 

                    This project is not good for the town.  You just keep paying and paying.  High
                    property taxes hurt people's college funds, he said. 

                    Board of Aldermen President Mike Kelleher believes many of the concerns are
                    exaggerated.  He said a new school should not seriously affect traffic.  And the
                    gas pipeline would pose no safety problem, he said. 

                    There would be 100 vehicles and about nine buses going into the school.  They
                    will be in school by 7:35 a.m., he said, adding that normal traffic would not be
                    interrupted. 

                    Dunne said that's a good sight better than previous ideas for the parcel. 

                    Past proposals for the farm have included a 150 to 180-unit senior housing
                    complex, which could bring an estimated 600 new vehicles to the southeastern
                    part of town, he said. 

                    We live in a densely populated city.  We are kind of lucky to find a flat area of
                    land.  The owner of the farm is selling.  It is not like we are taking it, he said. 

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