It remains a mystery why the state cannot protect vacant properties it owns. A costly mystery.
The most recent example is the former Sunrise Resort in East Haddam, a 144-acre property along the pristine Salmon River that the state bought in 2009 for $3.2 million.
It is beyond question a great piece of land to preserve. But the state couldn't figure out what to do with it. Ideas were solicited from developers, but none went anywhere. Now, perhaps predictably, the place has been so badly vandalized that most of the 82 buildings on the property will have to be demolished. Thieves have ripped copper out of the walls of many of the cabins, torn air conditioners out of walls and smashed glass and mirrors, The Courant's Peter Marteka recently reported.
Sadly, we have seen this pattern before, with state properties such as the once-magnificent Norwich State Hospital campus in Preston and Norwich and the Cass Gilbert-designed former Seaside Regional Center in Waterford: The sites become available. The state makes an initial effort to do something with them, it falls through, interest wanes and the once-spectacular properties are ravaged by vandals and the elements as the years pass. This happens despite the expenditure of thousands of dollars for maintenance and security.
This is not acceptable. A spokesman for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said the agency plans to clean up the site, removing underground tanks and asbestos. This is a positive step, one that perhaps should have been taken three years ago. But what the state really needs is an effective protocol for deal with vacant or surplus property, perhaps a nonprofit agency, such as New York has, that aggressively markets or co-develops properties.
What we're doing now isn't working.