The town has constructed a large berm at a commercially zoned vacant property at 75 Church Hill Road where a locked gate will soon be added to control vehicle access to the 1.1-acre site in a high-traffic location.
First Selectman Pat Llodra said last week that the site at the corner of Church Hill Road and Edmond Road has posed various problems over the years, including unapproved large-vehicle parking and littering, among others.
The site is in a B-2 (Business) zone. The property formerly was the location of Highway Cleaners, a dry cleaning business.
Mrs Llodra said that over the years, various vehicles had been left parked on the property for days at a time without the property owner’s approval to do so. Also, vehicles with For Sale signs affixed to them have been left there by people seeking to sell autos, she said.
“The area looked blighted,” she said.
Building the berm and installing a gate are measures intended to improve the property’s appearance, when considering that the area is a “gateway” to Newtown for people who are entering local roads from Exit 10 of the nearby Interstate 84, she said.
The berm, which consists of roughly 340 cubic yards of soil, has been planted with grass seed by the town so that turf would emerge there next spring.
Making the area more attractive is intended to spur local economic development, Mrs Llodra said.
The site lies across Edmond Road from a vacant and deteriorated Shell gas station. A development firm plans to build a new gas station/convenience store at the former Shell site at 67 Church Hill Road.
Within the next several years, the state plans to shift the southern section of Edmond Road westward, so that Church Hill Road, Edmond Road, and Commerce Road would form a conventional four-way intersection controlled by a single set of traffic signals.
That road realignment work is intended to improve traffic flow and make for better vehicle access to properties in a congested area that has a high accident rate.
Mrs Llodra said that the state Department of Transportation (DOT) approved town construction of the berm, which stands largely on the DOT’s right-of-way along the north side of Church Hill Road. That street is also known as US Route 6.
A portion of the berm lies on the 75 Church Hill Road property whose listed owner is Noie L. Richards, Jr. Mr Richards died last May.
Gordon Anderson, who did business with Mr Richards in the firm known as Tom Brook, LLC, gave the town permission for berm construction and gate installation.
Mr Anderson said he received permission from the Richards family to act on behalf of them in dealing with the town.
Having the berm in place improves the area’s appearance, Mr Anderson said. “It does look a lot better,” he said.
In the past, various people have done various things on the property without seeking permission, he said.
“[Berm construction] will keep the trailer trucks out of there,” Mr Anderson said.
Mr Anderson said that the planned realignment of the Church Hill Road, Edmond Road, and Commerce Road has created some uncertainty about that road project’s implications for 75 Church Hill Road.
Mr Anderson held out the possibility that a two-story 6,600-square-foot commercial building, for which Tom Brook LLC gained town approval in April 2007, might eventually be built at 75 Church Hill Road.
However, according to the town tax collector’s office, there is more than $522,000 of debt on 75 Church Hill Road, including more than $363,000 in back property taxes, more than $154,000 in sanitary sewer assessment fees, and more than $4,000 in sewer-use fees. Although the property does not have municipal sewer service, because it is commercial property, it has sewer billings due to its adjacency to a sewer main.
Also, the site’s former use by a dry cleaning business resulted in some soil contamination by industrial solvents.
A 2006 environmental report prepared by a consultant to Tom Brook LCC described the environmental protection steps that would need to be taken if a commercial building is constructed on the site.
Town Engineer Ronald Bolmer said the length of time that that berm would remain at 75 Church Hill Road depends upon the future use of the property.
He estimated the amount spent by the town for the work at 75 Church Hill Road at “a maximum of $10,000.”