After much time and money spent, it looks as though town resident Wayne Cooke will have his property farm tax status restored for the more than 20 acres of property at 573 East Main St. The resolution to allow Cooke until June 1 to plant seeds for a commercial crop – he intends to plant corn – and file the necessary paperwork to the to show he is actively farming the land was brought forth by Third Selectman John Opie at tonight’s Board of Selectmen meeting. Should Cooke meet the criteria set before him, his farm tax status will be restored.
Last week, during a special meeting on ’ request, which investigated both the actions of the town and Cooke regarding Cooke’s efforts to show proof of farming as requested last year. In January of 2009, the town revoked Cooke’s farm tax status for the property owned at 573 East Main St., as of the town 2008 October Grand List. Cooke was given until September 2010 to show he was actively farming his land. As of Sept. 1., the town declared Cooke had not met the criteria required, which included filing paperwork in addition to farming. After much debate and money spent for litigation over the issue on both the town and Cooke’s behalf, it was agreed that he now has until June 1 to show proof of farming and to fill out the necessary paperwork. He then has until Nov. 1 to harvest the crop he plants. If the criteria is met, Cooke’s farm tax status will be restored retroactively from when it was revoked. He will not owe the town back taxes for the property.
First Selectman Anthony “Unk” DaRos stated after the meeting, “We could have done this long ago. All he had to do was farm.”
When asked what prompted the change of heart to make efforts to restore Cooke’s status, Opie said after the BOS meeting, “lawyerly discussions and the need to restore sanity.”
Opie stated he was happy to “get back to life as normal” and added, “I want to see that it is done and over with.”
One of the biggest issues and deciding factors in allowing Cooke the new time frame for showing proof of farming had to do with the Connecticut Public Act 490 information book, which is a guide to farmland, open land and the taxation that is associated with it. The book, according to Opie, was issued in 2010 and could have possibly made the process between the town and Cooke go more smoothly had it been available prior. One the things emphasized in the book is the need for communication between local town assessors and property owners – this is the issue the town and Cooke have found themselves fighting over since January, 2009.
Cooke will now be charged with cultivating a 2.5-acre crop of corn on his property – the preparations for the land were done this past summer and fall. Upon hearing the BOS decision, Cooke stated, between several points of unrest with the three-year-long disagreement with town, “I am looking forward to moving ahead.”