Esty refuses to say if legislators should approve Haddam land swap

Legislators trying to judge the propriety conveying open space in Haddam for a development project overlooking the Connecticut River will have to make do without the opinion of Daniel C. Esty, the commissioner of environmental protection.

Esty today declined to respond to a request yesterday from three legislators on the Environment Committee for his opinion of a land swap that would give a developer 17 acres near the river for 87.7 acres near a state forest. They wanted an answer in 24 hours.

“This process cannot be done properly in the time allotted,” Esty wrote. “Ultimately, however, the proposal is a legislative and policy discussion that is subject to the discretion of legislators who reflect the priorities of their constituents.”

The guidance was requested by the Environment Committee co-chairman, Rep. Richard Roy, D-Milford, and the panel’s two ranking Republicans, Sen. Andrew Roraback of Goshen and Rep. Clark Chapin of New Milford.

“A lot of nice words” is how Roy described Esty’s letter.

“I’m disappointed that the commissioner seems wither unwilling or unable to offer an opinion,” Roraback said. “Quite frankly, I think his opinion should be the lodestar for whatever action we might take.”

In laying low on the land deal, Esty is following the example of his boss, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

“The governor’s silence irks me,” Roraback said.

Roraback intends to offer an amendment carving the Haddam land deal out of a broader land conveyance bill. It would direct the DEP to study the proposed swap.