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Preserve Castle Hill For Public Use

To the Editor:

We are writing to express our dismay that the Diocese of Bridgeport is on the brink of selling the former Gretsch property to a developer who plans to build 136 single family homes on the property, as described in Andrew Gorosko’s February 22 article. [Cluster Housing Complex Proposed For Castle Hill.”]  While it is our understanding that this deal may be as good as sealed, we hope that the town will take whatever action it can to prevent the bulk of this development and preserve the area for public use.

We admittedly have a very personal stake in stopping this development – we live immediately across from the Gretsch property.  However, many of our arguments against the development would likely be shared by other Newtowners were they to consider how such a development would change the appearance of the center of town and impact traffic, particularly around the Flag Pole.

While we likely would be able to see the new development from our yard, it is reasonable to believe that the rest of the town and its visitors would see it from many vantage points including Main Street, Fairfield Hills, and the communities in Sandy Hook that overlook the center of town.  Newtown is known for its bucolic scenes and rolling hills.  Do we want to look up at the town’s most visible – even historic – hill and see the back sides of house after house after house?

In addition to our concerns about the aesthetics of having a massive development built where there are now fields, stone walls, and forests, we worry about the impact of at least 136 additional cars on the narrow, winding Castle Hill Road.  It is already dangerous to pull out of Old Castle Drive, Pumpkin Lane, and Cornfield Ridge Road onto Castle Hill.  We can only imagine the increased risk added traffic would bring.  In addition, this development would dump more traffic onto Main Street at the flagpole—we don’t need to explain the implications of that.

We understand that development is necessary; however, we also believe it needs to be smart and allow the town to retain its character, which is its major selling point.  Cluster housing is a great idea for efficient building—in the right place with the demand to support it.  A quick search of a major real estate website revealed 103 single family homes for sale in Newtown between $300,000 and $600,000, the target price range of the houses to be built.  While it is possible some buyers would be attracted to the development’s amenities, people move to Newtown for its open space, not to live within arm’s length of their neighbors.

Finally, we fear it may be too late to stop this development and are left wondering why we were not made aware the diocese was interested in selling the property.  While the town might not have been able to foot the entire bill, had the public known earlier. We might have had more time to produce a counterproposal.  While panicked efforts are currently underway, we are at a strong disadvantage.

Sincerely,

Barbara B. Bowles and Abby Bowles Vopelak

2 Old Castle Drive, Newtown March 5, 2013

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