Concerns raised by 24th State Rep. Timothy O’Brien over the proposed location of a COSTCO store in city parks has spawned increasing opposition to the Hartford Road site on protected park land and Stanley Golf Course.
In a May 21st post on his website prior to preliminary approvals by city planning and the Council zoning committee Rep. O’Brien called for protecting scarce open space and a different approach to economic development:
People in New Britain have long been justifiably concerned about losing city parkland to development of any kind. This land has been wisely set-aside to improve the quality of life of all of the people of our great city.
Public parks exist for the betterment of all of the people from all income groups, especially the middle class and people of more modest means. Not everyone can afford a large personal estate or admission to a country club, but everyone can avail themselves of their own community’s public parks.
The recent proposal to build a Costco in what is now Stanley Golf Course and then displace wooded parkland to replace the lost golf holes would be a very big loss of our city’s public open space. Once we lose our city parkland to a big-box store, it is lost permanently as open space and cannot be restored – ever. If we decide that it is a mistake to have sold it off, or if the store built there closes down after a few years and becomes vacant, we can still never restore the lost parkland.
It is true that our city’s people need jobs, and that the additional tax revenue from development would help support public services. We have many residents in our city who are out of work and our city economy and tax base could use the boost. That is why the people of our city would truly welcome a Costco at any of the commercial locations in our community that are vacant and wanting for development.
But, for a community like ours, that has borne the brunt of decades of middle-class job losses from “free trade” and outsourcing, and taken more harm from the current recession that was Wall Street’s fault rather than our own, asking our city’s people to sell-off their cherished park land in exchange for jobs is like throwing salt in a wound. Why, it is legitimately asked, is it that people who are without are so often asked to make their lives more miserable – in this case, by losing the open space their families can presently enjoy, by right, as New Britain residents – as a condition of being able to provide for their families?
It seems to me that we need a better approach to economic development than selling off the city parkland that was wisely set aside generations ago for the benefit of all of our city’s people. We need economic development that involves thinking, planning and acting proactively to create industry, commerce and jobs for the future rather than one that is predicated on waiting for whatever comes our way and then persuading our city’s people to bear the cost of whatever it involves.
Our city should work with Costco to find another location in our community to locate, because selling off our city’s parks, as is presently proposed, is just not a good idea. And, while we are at it, we should start a stronger plan for economic development and job creation than one where selling our parkland like this is seriously considered by our City Hall.