Developers Looking To Assuage Fears On Borough Subdivision
“It’s important to reach out to residents before we submit documents [to the town],” said developer George Trudell.
His comment was in reference to a 112-home development being proposed at 20 to 60 Castle Hill Road, to a room of approximately 50 Borough of Newtown residents and officials.
Trudell, along with property owner Joseph Draper, spoke about the development for approximately a half hour before opening up for questions at an informal meeting with neighboring residents on March 23 in the Edmond Town Hall. The meeting was the second that Draper and Trudell held, with the first being the previous week for neighbors on Taunton Lake.
Both meetings were noticed with fliers and invites sent directly to neighbors and borough residents.
Draper told residents he bought the property “ten or 11 years ago,” and that in the intervening years between then and now, “received a lot of calls” with offers from developers in different styles. He said that with every single offer, “access to the lake was paramount.”
Draper was not interested in that, however, because lake access would affect the forested land. Then he was approached by Trudell, who had a “different vision,” that would preserve 70 acres of land around the lake.
“Lakefront lots would be very valuable but we chose this,” said Draper.
Draper said there were plans for preservation of the barn and bomb shelter on the property, with the former being possibly used for art galleries, or as office space for those who want to work remotely but in a more office-like setting, and the latter for a wine cellar.
Trudell said that the only entrance to the property would be off Mt Pleasant Road, but there will likely be an emergency-only entrance or entrances depending on the input of the fire marshal. He said that the borough has “strict regulations” and that the proposed development would “meet and exceed all regulations.”
The specific regulation they will be using is 4.05.1, which allows residential open space developments. The homes will be clustered in one area of the development to maximize the open space surrounding it and would be a “multi-generational” development with homes between 1,800 and over 3,000 square feet.
He said the homes would fit the architectural style of the surrounding borough.
More than half the land will be open space, according to Trudell, and with setbacks “close to 100 acres will not be touched.” The homes will be built on 40 acres of the property, and the remaining open space will be given to the borough as a conservation easement. The open space will have no trails, gazebos, or bike trails, and will be no trespassing for non-residents of the new development.
Residents asked a number of questions about the development.
One inquired about traffic, and Trudell responded that a traffic engineer would be looking at the impact. Another noted that area between Johnny Cake Lane and Mt Pleasant Road “can be pretty dangerous,” and Trudell responded they would be doing improvements to the road to help that.
A traffic light at the entrance might be a possibility if recommended by the Department of Transportation, Trudell said.
Another inquired about setbacks, and Trudell responded that there would be 200 foot setbacks in most areas and the wooded areas would not be cleared other than to clean up deadwood. They plan to create a “larger buffer with new evergreen” plantings and “maintain the older trees as much as we can.”
When asked about parking, Trudell said that each home would have a two-car garage and some extra parking in front of the home, with some guest parking in the area.
Some residents were concerned because they currently walk the vacant property, and the development would make it no trespassing. Another resident remarked that technically they are “trespassing now.”
Trudell responded that it is “better for the big picture” to limit people on the property even though it may be “distressing” to people currently using the property.
“There are insurance issues that always come up with people walking on private property,” said Trudell.
One resident inquired about why the development went with clustered homes instead of the one-acre homes allowed in the zone. Trudell answered that if they did a standard development “there would be no open space.”
Under the impression that Draper said he had no plans to develop the property following its purchase, one resident inquired if Draper’s plans had changed. Draper responded that his plans had not changed — his goal was to preserve as much of the property as possible but he always planned to do something with the property.
“When I purchased the property, yes without a doubt I intended to develop it,” said Draper.
Rochambeau Trail Disruption
Borough of Newtown Senior Burgess Chris Gardner, in attendance at the meeting, asked if Draper and Trudell were “aware of the historical significance” of the property due to the Rochambeau Trail cutting through the property.
“I see houses right in the middle of where the trail goes,” said Gardner.
Trudell responded that they would do a study on the property to see what may have to be preserved.
Gardner also inquired if Draper gave any thought to selling the property to the town. Draper responded that he did consider that “from time to time” and had talked to the town at one point.
“At the time they were more focused on a property in Sandy Hook,” said Draper.
Gardner inquired if Draper would be willing to “consider a new conversation” with the town. Draper said that he would, but “the economics would be difficult to pull off.”
Trudell said that the permitting process would take a year or two and the development could take three to four years to finish. He said residents will have further opportunities to give input during Inland Wetlands and Planning & Zoning Commission meetings, and further developments will be in The Newtown Bee.
Associate Editor Jim Taylor can be reached at email@example.com.