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Town Plan, Open Space, Buddhist Temple Among Key 2003 Issues For Town's Land Use Agencies



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Town Plan, Open Space, Buddhist Temple Among Key 2003 Issues For Town’s Land Use Agencies

By Andrew Gorosko

During 2003, the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) continued crafting the ongoing decennial revision of the Town Plan of Conservation and Development, a conceptual plan used by municipalities to help guide decisionmaking on land use applications.

The proposed town plan, which addresses growth and conservation issues for the coming decade, is slated for a public hearing on January 15.

Central to the town plan is a “vision statement,” in which the P&Z describes “what life should be like in Newtown in ten years.” That statement holds that a prime local goal is the protection and enhancement of the town’s picturesque, rural, historic New England setting and attributes.

In a related project, a P&Z subcommittee has formulated proposed regulations that would be used to maximize the amount of undeveloped open space land that would remain undisturbed within some future residential subdivisions. The proposed “open space conservation subdivision” regulations would seek to preserve the local rural character. P&Z members plan to air the specifics of the proposed regulations at an as-yet unscheduled public hearing.

During 2003, the town’s rapid residential growth continued apace with the construction of new residential subdivisions containing scores of single-family homes.

Two salient examples of such growth are the 52-lot Cider Mill Farm subdivision, which is nearing completion near Lower Paugussett State Forest in Sandy Hook, and the 20-lot Quarry Ridge Estates, which is nearly complete at the site of Newtown Sand and Gravel’s former surface mine off Toddy Hill Road in Sandy Hook.

Also, Ginsburg Development Corporation Connecticut, LLC, is constructing its 96-unit condominium complex, known as Liberty at Newtown, for people over 55 on Mt Pleasant Road in Hawleyville.

As 2003 closed, the Cambodian Buddhist Society of Connecticut’s court appeal of the P&Z’s February rejection of its controversial Buddhist temple proposal was pending in Danbury Superior Court.

Citing religious freedom, as protected by state and federal law, the society in March filed an appeal seeking court approval of the group’s proposal to build a 7,600-square-foot Buddhist temple/meeting hall at 145 Boggs Hill Road.

The P&Z had unanimously rejected the society’s development proposal for its ten-acre property. P&Z members said the Buddhists’ envisioned use of the property, involving increased traffic and noise, would be “far too intense for this particular site.” The Buddhist society has a monastery at the property. The temple proposal drew heavy opposition from nearby property owners, who listed traffic and noise among their complaints.

Among other proposals, two developers want to build 200 age-restricted condominiums on a site off Scudder Road. That project attracted strong opposition from nearby residents even before any formal construction plans were submitted.

Developers KASL, LLC, and IBF, LLC, want to build an age-restricted condominium complex on approximately 160 acres. The site has the addresses 16 and 17 Robin Hill Road. The property is bounded on the north by Scudder Road, and on the south by Route 302. The P&Z is expected to rule soon on the developers’ proposal for zoning rule changes, which would allow them to proceed with planning for the complex that they envision.

As 2003 closed, Omnipoint Facilities Network-2, LLC, received state approval to build a 130-foot-tall cellular telephony tower on a site at 3 Edmond Road. The firm had initially proposed building a tower near a residential area off Walnut Tree Hill Road. But that proposal drew stiff opposition from nearby residents. Omnipoint is a subsidiary of T-Mobile, USA, Inc.

Also, the town is continuing with plans for a $1.25-million multiphased Sandy Hook Center improvement project, which would include new sidewalks, crosswalks, decorative street lighting, and landscaping for the compact business district.

Borough Of Newtown

During 2003, borough zoning officials addressed three significant land use matters –– the Village District zoning regulations, a proposed expansion of the Newtown Hook and Ladder Volunteer Fire Company firehouse, and an office building proposed for the corner of Church Hill Road and The Boulevard.

In May, the Borough Zoning Commission approved the Village District regulations, which are a set of land use rules intended to keep future commercial development in the borough in “aesthetic harmony” with existing architecture. The rules seek to preserve the appearance of borough areas with “business” and “professional” zoning designations. The regulations seek to “protect the distinctive character, landscape, and historic values” of the area by placing various restrictions and controls on commercial development.

After the rules’ approval, borough commercial property owners filed three lawsuits in Danbury Superior Court in seeking to overturn the regulations. The property owners claim that the regulations are vague, would damage development potential, and hurt property values.

In June, Newtown Hook and Ladder filed a court appeal, challenging a Borough Zoning Board of Appeals decision that affects the prospects of the fire company’s controversial proposal to expand its firehouse at 45 Main Street, behind Edmond Town Hall. Simultaneously, Hook and Ladder was investigating an alternate proposal to build a new firehouse on Sugar Street, about one-half mile to the south, near Town Hall South. 

Also, the Borough Zoning Commission rejected a controversial proposal to build a 35,000-square-foot office building on the vacant corner of Church Hill Road and The Boulevard. Applicant Church Hill Partners, LLC, of Danbury later appealed that rejection in court. The firm reportedly has withdrawn that appeal from court.

Borough Zoning Commission members had unanimously rejected the office building project, stating, “The proposal is too large and too intensive for the location.”

Boulevard-area residents strongly opposed the proposed office building at May and April public hearings. Their many objections focused on the additional traffic that would be generated by an office building in the heavily traveled area, the relatively large size of the office building, and the placement of the sole entry/exit driveway for the building on the residential Boulevard.

Kendro Moves Out

In March, Kendro Laboratory Products, long one of Newtown’s largest employers, announced that it was closing its plant on Pecks Lane, where it manufactured centrifuges for the biomedical industry. More than 230 workers were expected to lose their jobs when the operation was moved to Asheville, N.C.

In August it was announced that six former executives of Kendro had formed a new company, Tier One, LLC, that would keep 50 skilled manufacturing positions associated with the machining operations in Newtown. Another part of the plant on Pecks Lane will be used by Kendro Bioprocessing, a product line of Kendro, which employs more than 30 staff and makes large, industrial-scale centrifuges for pharmaceutical companies.

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