A 136-house development proposal in the Borough of Newtown is prompting an effort to preserve two large tracts of scenic land on Castle Hill.
A preliminary proposal to develop housing clusters at a 66-acre parcel at 20 Castle Hill Road parcel and a 70-acre lot at 60 Castle Hill Road, owned by the Bridgeport Roman Catholic Diocesan Corporation, had caught the Newtown Forest Association (NFA) members’ immediate attention. The NFA is a private land trust.
“The ‘crown of castle hill’ across from Nettleton preserve, is what we are calling it,” said NFA President Robert Eckenrode.
“It’s one of the most scenic views in Newtown and there should be a priority in preserving its rural character.” Rather that alter the open space, he would like to see the town take the opportunity to protect it.
Mentioning the meadows for songbirds, wildlife habitat bordering Taunton Lake, and the “gorgeous” wooded land, Mr Eckenrode hopes public input “can affect the outcome.”
“It’s open space we think the town should seriously consider acquiring,” he said. The land is “extremely valuable open space and agricultural property that should be preserved.
“The reality is that a developer has taken an opportunity to build,” he said. “But what I think should trump that is the town taking a hard look at the value of this property for preserving the rural character of town and the opportunity to preserve the rapidly disappearing agricultural land.
“My hope would be that we have chance as a town and as a land trust to make a counteroffer,” he said.
In a recent e-mail, NFA Treasurer Guy Peterson noted, “[The NFA] and several neighbors and property owners that will be affected by this development have started a grassroots campaign that is running very fast to make a counteroffer to the diocese to preserve the 136-acre former Gretsch estate.” (See the new Facebook page Preserving Newtown’s Castle Hill.)
Mr Peterson planned to meet with First Selectman Pat Llodra this week.
In his e-mail, Mr Peterson wrote, “This is a parcel that should be protected as open space to preserve the endangered meadow habitats and forest as well as protect the quality of the watershed. The NFA has its Nettleton Preserve immediately across the street from this parcel and has great concerns for its protection. Further preserving this parcel preserves the rural character of Newtown and with the adjacent preserved properties creates a greenway corridor for wildlife protection. My biggest concern is stormwater discharge given that all of the water flowing down Castle Hill ends up flowing into the NFA orchard. The lower part of that property is already wet — the NFA doesn’t want to see it get worse.”
Appealing to the public, Mr Peterson’s asks, “We would like to have you join us to help capitalize on this open space preservation opportunity. These immediate efforts will include fundraising, grant writing, appealing to town government (a key part of the equation) and assessing the parcel … to generate some of the funds necessary to execute the sale.” Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A local development firm is seeking preliminary approvals for the construction of a cluster housing complex that would be the largest newly proposed residential project in more than a decade.
According to documents filed with the town, GLT Development Corporation is seeking preliminary approvals for the proposed 136-house project in the borough, at addresses 20 Castle Hill Road and 60 Castle Hill Road. Both the 66-acre 20 Castle Hill Road parcel and the 70-acre 60 Castle Hill Road parcel are owned by the Bridgeport Roman Catholic Diocesan Corporation.
The 60 Castle Hill Road parcel has extensive undeveloped lake frontage on the southeast section of Taunton Lake. A small section of that parcel lies outside the borough.