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POLL: $4 Million Schlumberger Purchase Discussed For Nov. Ballot

In early September, the Board of Selectmen voted 4-1 to include the question on the November 8 ballot in what First Selectman Rudy Marconi said at the time was a move to “take control of the destiny of our town.”

Scroll down to weigh in on this issue with our townwide poll.

As the town prepares to put to referendum the $4 million purchase of the Schlumberger property in Ridgefield, officials are coming down to the wire in getting the information to the public – and to other town officials.

In early September, the Board of Selectmen voted 4-1 to include the question on the November 8 ballot in what First Selectman Rudy Marconi said at the time was a move to “take control of the destiny of our town.”

If approved, a 30-acre portion of the international oilfield company’s abandoned research center would be purchased by the town of Ridgefield for $2.9 million – with about $1 million in other costs – and the remaining 15 acres would be acquired privately by local developer Steve Zemo.

The question now is whether putting the issue on the November ballot may be premature – dissenting Selectman Andy Bodner supported the eventual purchase of the property but voted in Semptember against locking it in for the ballot due to a number of unanswered questions and the “magnitude of the open items.”

One reason to push the issue along for November, though, is that the election would bring a far greater number of people to vote rather than a special election held sometime during the year.

Marconi has said the open questions will be answered in public forums in October.

“If we don’t have all the answers, we’re not going forward with this, but Schlumberger needs to see an endpoint,” Marconi said. “If the town loses the opportunity to take this, though, it could go to the highest bidder.”

Ridgefield would lose a large tax opportunity if that were to become the case, he said.

But as negotiations for the purchase are still young or ongoing and have taken place mostly in executive session over the last year, further details are minimal as of early October, even for the Board of Finance, said board chair Peter Gomez over the phone Friday afternoon.

Gomez and two members of the Board of Finance – Jill Bornstein and Marty Heiser – voted 3-0 Wednesday against the purchase, citing a lack of information.

“We don’t have sufficient details for us to render a financial decision at this time,” Gomez said Friday. “And we’re not a rubber-stamp authority.”

Gomez said it is now up to the Board of Selectman to reaffirm its vote upon advice of the Board of Finance – he said that the Board of Finance would better serve the issue with more access to the information and a more collaborative effort by all officials.

“This is a large ticket item placed under discretionary spending,” Gomez said, “and that’s the case that needs to be made to the public.”

sebastian dangerfield November 28, 2011 at 03:08 PM
Ed Tyrell. I just uploaded my profile picture, so while my name will remain false, you might recognize me, if we pass each other on the street. All the best, Luca
Louis November 28, 2011 at 03:33 PM
Luca said, 'Louis " tried to tell us that sterling woods in danbury is similar type situation. But that complex has 328 units on 130 acres. What I said in my post was, STERLING WOODS I and II 708 units Luca, here is a link to condo complexes in Danbury: http://www.lisaandyou.com/Townhomes__Condos/page_2057885.html It says: STERLING WOODS I 304 units STERLING WOODS II 304 units That would total: STERLING WOODS I and II 708 units Exactly as I stated.
sebastian dangerfield November 28, 2011 at 04:34 PM
Cool louis. 304 +304 = 708 Awesome. As I suspected, you now have only one post attributed to your name. Because busy louis has been busy changing things up--then accusing me of being someone else. But in addition to not being able to add, being less than honest about which name you want to sign in under etc, as far as I read, it still says its 354 units combined on 130 acres. The original sterling woods it goes on to say was 80 premier units --the larger development built on 130 acres has ...... From the website: The original section of Sterling Woods I, about 80 units,opened in 1986. This separate association has it's own clubhouse, pool & tennis courts. Some of the models have main level master bedroom suites. The new & considerably larger section (354 units) was started about 10 years later and took several years to build out. You cant add. And unless you are seeing something different than their own website details, you cant read. But here is the other thing---this is 130 acres. Thats over 4 times the land. There is no affordable housing that I can find here. 830g did not apply--this is a properly zoned . The point continues to be--no developer is going to build 500 units on 25 acres and expect to turn a profit. The reason is--people wont spend 250k to live in the projects. You try to draw a line--but sorry the line doesnt exist.
Ed Tyrrell November 28, 2011 at 04:56 PM
That is good. That is really good. I will keep an eye out for you.
Louis November 28, 2011 at 05:34 PM
Luca, look at the way you spin things. You asked for an example of 500 units. The website I gave you says there are 708 units between Sherwood I and II. What do you want, that's what it says. I also pointed out there is an even larger project in the works on the old Union Carbide land. You dismiss the idea implying I'm making it up. Here's the link: http://www.prlog.org/11060906-toll-brothers-acquires-rivington-in-danbury-connecticut.html It says: "up to 1,080 new townhomes, condominiums, and age-restricted residences. " Your contention is that a 500 unit complex couldn't exist. 1,080 sure sounds larger than 500. What do you want? Your arguments go in these ridiculous circles. And when your claims are challenged, you start complaining about the person's ID or a typo or a misspelling. I think it is pointless to have a conversation with you.
Louis November 28, 2011 at 05:47 PM
Bob, As one of the few voices on the other side of the issue on this forum, bear with me as I try to respond to each point you make. TEN REASONS BUYING SCHLUMBERGER IS A BAD IDEA 1) The voters are being asked to support this transaction on December 6th, prior to the completion of due diligence and public disclosure of all the facts. Agree. I think the rushed timing is wrong. 2) The risk of high density housing is small, and the risk that high density housing would be detrimental (depressed real estate values and increased taxes for the rest of us) is dubious, and certainly not worth $7 million to avoid. Disagree. Housing happens. That is the one thing we can be sure of. The population keeps growing. If not today, then at some future date, the Schlum property will be a desirable building site. 3) If we buy the property, our plan is to sell part to a residential developer who will build some high density housing. Which side of his mouth is the 1st Selectman talking out of, and who is he trying to help -- a developer pal or Ridgefield? Agree. I too thought it was a weird message from the BOS. We don’t want affordable housing so therefore we will make a section into affordable housing. more.......
Louis November 28, 2011 at 05:49 PM
4) This property has been for sale for many years, looked at by scores of developers and passed over. People in the development business who know how to make money have rejected the property. The town does not belong in the real estate business. The property was priced higher and the developers turned it down. Now the price is lower, so there could be renewed interest. But on your other point, I agree the town does not belong in the real estate business. 5) Has the town completed a financial impact statement, clearly showing all of the hard and soft costs of this purchase over the next three, five, ten and, twenty years? Yes. I have the rigorous spreadsheet showing the economics of what could happen to our taxes if condos are built at that location. It is based on the Rutger’s study of affordable housing in New Jersey. It does not consider the anecdotal info from Casagmo, a completely different animal. 6) The Town has a poor track record running businesses. We are dreadful landlords at the old high school and the Rec Center runs at a loss. Shlumberger is many times larger, who will manage it? Why are we being asked to rush and buy this burden with an open ended checkbook. Agree. more.......
Louis November 28, 2011 at 05:51 PM
7) Buying this property adds about $650,000 to the budget which will squeeze town and school budgets moving forward. Priorities are set for Police cars, road repairs, parks and education during the public annual budget process. Schlumberger should be vetted against other financing requests in the normal budget process and not snuck through without context. Agree. 8) The Selectmen have cut aid to social services, reduced public safety manpower, and ignored much needed infrastructure repairs and now they want $7,000,000 with no real plan or fiscal analysis? I think you make some good points about the money, but you are taking them out of context. Yes, there is a cost to owning Schlumberger. It will make your taxes go up. But the flip side is that there could be an even greater cost of not owning Schlumberger. Not owning Schlumberger could make your taxes go up even more. I’m not sitting here saying I want the Schlumberger property for more hiking trails or to save the spotted owl. Hell no. Your goal is to keep taxes lower. My goal is the exactly the same. But not buying the land might backfire on you. more.....
Louis November 28, 2011 at 05:54 PM
9) The environmental liability is unknown and will not be known by the completion of the due diligence. Any future environmental law suits will of course come after Ridgefield. Agree. I do wish the town would look at this more carefully. I want to buy the property to be cautious, to stop any potential condo development. But my cautious nature also leads me to believe we should do more homework on the environmental issues. 10) The scare tactic that affordable housing or some other detrimental use will be built would be laughable if it didn’t reek of prejudice, discrimination and elitism. This I have to laugh at. Sorry. Conservatives suddenly interested in helping out minorities. Come on, that is a bit of a stretch isn’t it? Where does that leave me? Plus side: No condos, no traffic, no more students Relative tax savings Down side: Town as real estate manager (implies a tax loss) Potential environmental problems (possible huge tax loss) What it comes down to for me is that as you can see, there are pros and cons. But on the side of purchasing the property, there are some good people I’ve gotten to know over the years. These are kind hearted sorts like Manners and Kozlark. There are also wise men like Bodner and D’addario. All in favor of the purchase. On the other side I see people who are some of the nastiest ******** I’ve ever come across. I don’t have all the answers. No one does. But I’m going to trust the good people and vote yes.
Roger Sherman November 28, 2011 at 06:04 PM
Louis, What I see is when I look at those developments they have one thing in common the developer was able to get appropriate zoning approvals without having to wield the 8-30g. If a developer came into town to build 500 units on that land it would never get approved, and as Luca has pointed out the economics don't support an affordable appeal. I am still confused on where you got 500 units?
Louis November 28, 2011 at 06:59 PM
Roger said: "If a developer came into town to build 500 units on that land it would never get approved, and as Luca has pointed out the economics don't support an affordable appeal." Your statement is ignoring reality. N. Salem Road had 19 units proposed under 830-g on less than 1 acre. Obviously the builder saw the economics as working. Some guy in a armchair is saying it will never work, but a builder who does this for a living is willing to put up millions because his knowledgeable accountants say it will work. Who you going to believe? Another thing, some naysayers hand pick some assumptions and then add a few things on the back of an envelope and make the broad claim the economics don't work. Um, yeah, because they hand picked the assumptions to make it not work. Roger, you ask for a rigorous spreadsheet from the pro-Schlum crowd, but you are willing to accept some hand-waving pseudo argument from the anti-Schlum crowd?? You want something really scary? You know how to make the economics even better? They will build upwards. A 10 story affordable housing high-rise. 830-g gives them carte blanche. Ridgefield's first high-rise.
sebastian dangerfield November 28, 2011 at 07:21 PM
louis, Why do you keep trying to say Im arguing in circle. 304 +304 even if it said that , equals 608. So, am I not allowed, in your rulebook to point out , how you cant add? I dont see where is says that number, even after I checked out the entire sight. Sorry--I just dont.....i copied and pasted the relevant sections. It says 80 and in total 354. Thats what I read and thats what i copied and pasted. When you post an article from nov 2010 as to the potential--thats great. I can say the schlumberger property has a potential of 2,000. they are not built, so I wont count it. Is that unfair? To only place importance on what is real? I do it that way--because all sorts of reasons exist to inflate or forecast large numbers. I dont think I pointed out a typo. I only noted that your arguments sounded a lot like a different person that also contributed here--and in the interim, your old sign on was erased and now you have reappeared. Its a matter of affirming my belief--similar to what you are doing here.
Roger Sherman November 28, 2011 at 07:22 PM
Louis, So are you going answer where you came up with the 500 number? Also North Salem Road is now 16 units and that is a far cry from 500 and it has yet to be approved. Does your spreadsheet only work when you do the math with 500 units? BTW I never asked for a spreadsheet. You know what Louis, if some developer thinks he could get a 10 story building approved on that property then by all means let them have had it. There have been some very good arguments against the purchase, and your only argument is some made up number. You know why I am going to vote no, because I think the town is trying to railroad something through without providing us all the facts, the lack the understanding what they are really getting into and because history has shown they suck at purchasing property. Really is the town supposed to swoop in and buy every piece of property that has development potential?
sebastian dangerfield November 28, 2011 at 07:36 PM
Louis Its funny how you say the opponents hand pick some assumptions. YOu mean you have not? The n salem road complex has not been built. But you assume that if it is proposed it will be built and the economics have been justified. Sorry, but you should do more research on the entire debacle of 830g. There are more people making proposals by 5 fold , than actually get built. They are greenmailers. They propose undesirable projects in the hope of getting concessions on other projects. The other thing that , Im sorry, i dont know exactly how you can exactly embrace the Rutgers study, which , if I am correct, was published in 2006 --under an entirely different economic climate and was unique to New jersey. Is that the one? I mean in terms of hand picking--that is a plum! Now about all your attacks on me--and how you dont want to argue with me, despite the fact you do---I would ask that we limit the universe of our facts to those that exist. You obviously have every right to believe people you trust and who apparently are 'nice.' Thats your call. And you can tell people on this sight, that they too should simply align themselves , against all logic, with people they like, rather than less than politically correct people, whose points may be harder to controvert. But Louis, I am not on here to win a popularity contest...or to win new friends. I just point out what i think is crap and what makes sense. Adding 304 and 304 will never =708 to me.
sebastian dangerfield November 28, 2011 at 07:40 PM
haha ed. thanks.
Louis November 28, 2011 at 07:57 PM
"Also North Salem Road is now 16 units and that is a far cry from 500 and it has yet to be approved." Roger, N. Salem went form 19 units to 16 units because of a wetlands issues. Why try to pretend it was due to some economics issue? The builder saw the economics working at 19 units. Don't do a Luca on us. "You know what Louis, if some developer thinks he could get a 10 story building approved on that property then by all means let them have had it. " I think you are not understanding the power of 830-g. "There have been some very good arguments against the purchase, and your only argument is some made up number." Yep, the "good" arguments for not purchasing Schlum is that there exists a nuclear power plant on the site. There is radioactivity. There is a grand conspiracy going on at secret meetings in town hall. And conservatives are suddenly interested into helping our Portuguese brothers. (Say, something I don't get about the Portuguese argument. If not buying the land means the Portuguese will now have affordable homes, doesn't that imply exactly what I'm saying, that an affordable housing complex will be built?) "Really is the town supposed to swoop in and buy every piece of property that has development potential?" No, not at all. But we should buy the big one in the center of town and ignore the ones like the cell tower property because they aren't a threat.
Louis November 28, 2011 at 08:43 PM
See, this is what you do Luca. When your arguments fail, you hone in on a typo. I wrote 304 + 304 = 708. It should have read 354 + 354 = 708. The link I posted is very clear. It says 354 twice. But you will pretend it doesn't and try to divert attention to a typo. By the way Luca, you have a typo: "And you can tell people on this sight..." It's a "site" Luca, not a "sight". There, how does that feel to have someone pick on your typo? Does that make me a super hero because you made a typo? And this bizarreness where you go on and on about someone supposedly posting under another name and meanwhile you get caught posting under another name. I think that is just weird Luca, just like scary weird.
Roger Sherman November 28, 2011 at 09:30 PM
Louis even with specter of 8-30g hanging over their head P&Z realized that site couldn't sustain 19 units and lowered it to 16 yet to be approved units. I think Bob make some very cogent points, points that you readily agreed with and to your point we all now of the oil and the beryllium that are on the site, but the town has buy the property and and pay to remediate the problem without knowing the extent of the issue? But still you fail to answer the question. I am paraphrasing from an earlier posting of yours "500 condo and 500 kids for the school system" yet you still failed to answer the question where did you come with 500 units?
Louis November 28, 2011 at 10:53 PM
Roger, P&Z has no say in the matter. They can pretend they do, but they don't. You know that Roger. P&Z knows that. A wetland issue can trump 830-g. But P&Z can't. The units went from 19 to 16 due to a wetlands issue.
sebastian dangerfield November 28, 2011 at 11:00 PM
Louis I wasnt picking on a typo. I thought you said you copy and pasted...so that would be an odd typo. Furthermore, you typed 304 twice --so how would I know what you are talking about--because 4 times now, I have asked you where you are getting these numbers from, where all I can find is 80+ 354. ( that is 80 in sterling woods 1 and 354 in sterling woods ii). Im not at all trying to 'get you' I just have no idea where your math is coming from. I looked at the site --3 times now--and keep coming up with the same information--and I copy and pasted. The link you posted is not clear at all as you say....otherwise I wouldnt keep asking. the link that was clear, was the toll brothers article that talks about a potential, but clearly they are not built--so, as I say above, Im not counting potential as real. Louis--you keep bringing up this concept that I have posted under another name--then telling me its weird when I do. How about we make a rule--either you dont care about multiple names--or you do. And once you establish that rule--we can stay consistent. But its odd how you want to bring it up 4 times on this thread--then tell me I shouldnt point out that you obviously post under various names. As for your level of consistency and honesty--I scrolled up-and see that you initially told us how affordable housing should be near transportation. when I asked what transportation you were talking about--you said "legs". You never admit your wrong.
sebastian dangerfield November 28, 2011 at 11:26 PM
oh --louis -i have one other question are you for affordable housing or not? your insertion of bringing minorities or whatever leave me wondering --I dont get where you are coming from. And just a suggestion You say 'near transportation"--then say "LEGS" You say 304 +304=708 then say Im an ass for harping on a typo-- (I honestly thought you meant to equal 608--but since yu said 708 on another thread--i had no idea-- But why is it so tough, louis for you to say --yeah , i guess there is no real public transportation near schumberger. Or yeah , sorry I mean 354 +354 ? Why is it so tough for you , louis, to simply say --I didnt copy and paste---which I indicated I did --and I can see why there is confusion. My bad. Its just beyond your ability isnt it? It makes for a much more interesting discussion, if you can actually behave in a civilized manner. One thing i just cant get my head around --is the rush. Why is this vote on a property that might sit for 5 years, need to be done before the electorate knows more about contamination?
Roger Sherman November 28, 2011 at 11:40 PM
Sorry Wetlands. But still you fail to answer where you get 500? Scare tactics maybe?
Louis November 28, 2011 at 11:56 PM
Roger, I read 500 in the Press. And or I heard Rudy say it. Maybe the actual number will be 400. Maybe it will be 600. I don't know. But the gist is the same. 500 units can mean 200 students by 2006 standards. Now you tell me, after the economic downturn, are families more of less likely to be in need of affordable housing? I would think it is more. Families are losing their homes. So 200 students might become 300 students. You want to close an elementary school and save $1 million? Isn't going to happen if you bring in several hundred new students. So don't buy Schlum and not only will the boe budget go up by millions, you won't get to close a school and all those potential savings will be lost.
Roger Sherman November 29, 2011 at 12:35 AM
Louis I searched high and low and the only reference to 500 was you.
sebastian dangerfield November 29, 2011 at 12:47 AM
Louis, Its pretty clear you dont understand 830g. 830g is a tool for developers to sidestep zoning requirements. It forces them to build 30% affordable. It does not mean they make money that way--in fact they lose. in order for a developer to functionally utilize 830g , they need to be able to sell market rate units. And that means that the 70% market rate units--need to more than compensate for the loss on the 30% they need. Now consider the Schlumberger property. Its not attractive. Full stop. The demand for affordable housing is high-and will remain high. After all, who wouldnt want to get state subsidized housing. But that subsidy, in this case, comes in the form of private developers taking on the burden, in exchange for removing zoning obstacles. But they wont do it with Schlumberger because of the contamination and the location. Consider this one hypothetical headline "Avalon offers those in need, housing on contaminated land." Story follows, ==what is a widely known berylium contaminated site, and was known at the time of the discount purchase, avalon (NYSE AVB) is now trying to off-load the units to people who already have a tough time in life." Or can be Come view the market rate units of Avalon--this formerly contaminated (now declared clean) site opposite the town dump can be had for your own for 15% more than similar, less encumbered property. Developers didnt buy in the past-and they wont buy this nightmare now.
Louis November 29, 2011 at 05:56 AM
Strangely, Roger said: "Louis I searched high and low and the only reference to 500 was you." I wanted to know if trees exist in Ridgefield, so I looked in my bedroom closet. Searched high and low. No trees. That's how I know trees don't exist in Ridgefield.... Or maybe trees do exist in Ridgefield, and just because something's not in MY field of vision doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Ya think? How about this: http://www.acorn-online.com/joomla15/forums/2-town-issues/13309-schlumberger.html?limit=6&start=120#13770 "Ellen Burns: Eureka's application for BP South (153 acres) would have allowed a density of 508 units - that's where Rudy got the 500. " Seems that others remember it the way I do, that Rudy mentioned the 500 number.
Louis November 29, 2011 at 06:15 AM
Luca, Schlumberger is a bad location? 1) There are thousands of condos in Danbury. Hmmmmmm, buy in Danbury and send your kids to school there, or buy in Ridgefield and send your kids to a top rated school district. Hmmmmmm. If Danbury condos sell, then Ridgefield condos will sell even more. 2) There are already successful condos on Quarry Ridge just before Schlum, and on South Street Bypass just after Schlum. Yet you think Schlum perched up on a secluded hill, just between these other two condo complexes, is a bad location? 3) Berylium is described as being present at the tail end of a drain pipe. A single drain pipe. Yet you want to make out like the entire 25 acres has a problem? Don't you think that is a bit of an exaggeration?
sebastian dangerfield November 29, 2011 at 01:26 PM
Roger Time to give up on this guy? The analogy is obviously unnecessary and not to the point. Then he references a blog post (maybe by him?--that's where he reveals his lack of depth) to a nonsensical analysis (308-508 units on 130 acres somehow translates to the same number on 25-30 acres?). But now bloggings by anonymous sources satisfy louis' research. Louis, I asked for you to copy and paste the 354 +354 --it probably exists, but after reading 80+ 354 and seeing that they are on 4 times the land--and phased in and zoned properly over 13 years, Im thinking if ridgefield ends up with anything like sterling woods it would equate to 100 nicely appointed homes. Which by the way, the town seems to want to achieve anyway? They are not talking about making it into a park. They are talking about selling it to make a sterling woods. So, no louis, i dont fear a private developer would do it--and neither does this plan. Your fears are bizarre...they essentially say "we need to buy it to prevent 80 homes (if sterling woods is your example) so that we can sell to a developer to make sterling woods." Make sense--Nope not to me either. As far as berylium being so limited...how about you indemnify the property? Or answer why they think it will cost 7 figures to clean up? Are you saying rudy doesnt know what he is doing--? I agree--. Just that you want to say he is competent, and then ignore half of what he is saying.
Roger Sherman November 29, 2011 at 01:35 PM
Louis so your source is a quote from EllenBurns regarding Eurekas application on a piece of property almost 4 times the size as Schlumberger? Still I have yet to find anywhere an official from the town said 500 units. Bringing up Ellen Burns should remind us of the same scare tactics ROSA used to bully in the eminent domain action at that property.
sebastian dangerfield November 29, 2011 at 01:37 PM
As far as condos selling in danbury--therefore they will sell here...interesting that you think we have the same demographics..the same transportation profile....the same access to jobs... There are houses in danbury---they too sell. Why would you buy a house in danbury and send your kids to school there, louis? You need to understand the differences in many areas. Why would a developer develop in ridgefield, when he can develop in darien or new canaan and command 50-80% more? Any ideas? Here is my theory---if the town doesnt buy the property, then schlumberger will have to clean it up themselves... while doing the cleaning, they will pay taxes--(200k) and after cleanup they can put the property back on market, and then the debate can restart if we want to buy. I have heard of no solid argument about any timing. The only thing I hear is "when the market picks up---a developer might buy." The sad fact we witnessed the biggest bubble in the history of real estate in the last 6 years--and the property was for sale . So to say it will be bought 'when the market picks up" is sort of tough to swallow. I promise you it will never, in our life time, return to the 2005 market--so people need to grasp reality and recognize that 'when the market picks up' is not a sure thing--and it was already there--without results.

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