FEMA grant to create riverside open space in Southbury

By:  Bill Bittar

SOUTHBURY -- A $1.1 million federal grant will allow the town to buy nine flood-prone properties along Pomperaug River and knock down the homes for recreational open space.

"I'm so glad that coming out of this dark cloud there is a silver lining," U.S. Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., told a small crowd gathered at Cedarland Park Monday morning. "This land is going to be preserved for generations."

Murphy was joined by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., U.S. Rep. Elizabeth H. Esty, D-5th District, Rep. Arthur J. O'Neill, R-Southbury, First Selectman Ed Edelson and two couples planning to sell their homes.

Town environmental groups were also represented, including Southbury Land Trust, the Audubon Center at Bent of the River and the Pomperaug River Watershed Coalition.

The town had already secured the Federal Emergency Management Agency money for four properties on Flood Bridge Road (one is a vacant lot) and Monday officials announced the approval of funding for more five homes on River Trail.

Carol S. Hubert, Edelson's chief of staff, said it's a voluntary program that pays for 75 percent of a property's fair market value, adding the owners have the option of applying through the town for bonding to cover the difference.

She said some residents living along the river, especially those whose foundations are already elevated, opted to stay put.