The proposed Sandy Hook Stables project, initiated by Fayette, Maine, resident George Mason, officially has a local connection now as Sandy Hook’s Rick Bayuk has been named by Mr Mason to the board of directors.
Mr Bayuk, who contacted Mr Mason after The Bee’s June 28 article on the possible project, is taking the steps necessary to finding out if Mason’s proposed $30–$50 million Sturbridge Village-like horse park will comply with the town’s zoning and land use regulations.
Mr Bayuk runs a small horse farm — Baybrook Farm & Rescue — out of his Great Ring Road home, and also owns two Connecticut businesses in the lock and security industry.
George Benson, director of planning and land use for the town, met with Mr Bayuk earlier this week and told the Sandy Hook resident that he needed to see some concrete plans for this project to get off the ground.
“We’re open to any ideas,” Mr Benson said. “We need to make sure we do what’s best for the town.
“We need a conceptual plan,” said Mr Benson, adding that it then can be determined if proposed land for the facility works with the zoning restrictions or if zoning regulations need to be amended, or what exactly can or cannot be done.
There is no specific time table in place for getting a conceptual plan to the town, said Mr Bayuk, adding that he needs to speak to Mr Mason and other board members.
Mr Mason is looking at a 102-acre parcel at 10 Hawleyville Road, on the market for $12.5 million. Mr Mason indicated that he would consider proposing the project for another community, not necessarily in Connecticut. Mr Mason said this project was initially on his mind about a year ago, but that the Sandy Hook shootings in December brought Newtown as a site to the forefront and he hopes to honor the victims through this project.
Mr Bayuk considers this to be a win-win situation in that Sandy Hook Stables has the potential to create jobs, lower taxes, and change the perception of the town since the tragedy. Mr Bayuk, who moved to Sandy Hook this past fall, says he appreciates the concern expressed by people when they hear where he is from — and “we certainly don’t ever want to forget something like this” — but adds that Sandy Hook Stables could put the town on the map for something new.
“We know that animals have an amazing healing ability,” Mr Bayuk adds. “I think it’s a tremendous opportunity for the area in general.”
Whether or not the project comes to fruition, and if Mr Mason stays involved, remain to be seen. WGME, a television station in Maine, after reporting on Mr Mason’s project idea, had responses from several viewers with concerns about Mr Mason’s history with animals.
“We have confirmed that volunteers with the Homeless Animal Rescue Team of Maine or HART found about 30 cats and one dog living in deplorable conditions inside Mason’s home,” a WGME web story reads. “According to HART, George Mason surrendered those cats and volunteers removed them from the property. Mason, however, was never charged, and claims that he was only trying to help a different animal rescue group that had lost its facility.”
Mr Mason responded to WGME: “I will not let any issues, involving me, damage a project being done by good people for good people. Thus, I’ll probably be dropping out of the project.”
Mr Mason told The Bee, this week, however, that he would prefer to stay involved and said the report does not tell the entire story, adding that, for one thing, there were not 30 cats under his care.
“Late, this past winter, I had assisted an animal rescue group with some cats for supposedly a short-term housing, and care, situation while they made other arrangements. The result was that the group had disbanded and I had to arrange for other situations for the cats and that was done. State of Maine Animal Welfare people were not involved in any way,” Mr Mason wrote in an e-mail to The Bee, adding that he reached out to shelters and got the problem solved.
“There is a person attempting to ‘trash’ me because they wanted involvement in this project but because of their background, we could not include them. If all this ‘mess’ will hurt the project, of course I will allow others to go forward without me.”
Mr Bayuk believes Sandy Hook Stables has potential one way or another.
“I think the project and the concept is much bigger than any one person,” said Mr Bayuk, adding that he also is a firm believer that it may be best to scale back the project to get it started, with potential for further development/expansion down the road. “The door should be left open to any viable possibility to get it going,” he suggests.
Mr Mason emphasizes that this is not a solo effort and notes that he used his connections with companies he had done advertising work for in the past. One other person involved, did the same, Mr Mason said, resulting in an initial $3–$5 million project idea growing to ten times the magnitude/ budget.
Mr Mason does not share specific names of companies, but Mr Bayuk confirms that there are many on board.
“He explained to me who they were and what their involvement would be,” Mr Bayuk said. “Most of the sponsors involved I know of.”
Time will tell if Sandy Hook Stables comes to be. Mr Mason remains hopeful that it will happen in Sandy Hook, but notes that he would be interested in making it happen in another location.
“Obviously there could be alterations to fit zoning but if there’s too many changes for the programs we want to implement, we’ll need to look elsewhere instead of the Newtown area,” Mr Mason wrote in an e-mail to The Bee.