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P&Z Approves 8-24 Referral, Road Discontinuation Moves Back To Selectmen



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The Planning & Zoning Commission on a split 3-2 vote at a June 26 special meeting, approved an 8-24 referral of the potential discontinuation of Reservoir Road.

The vote did not approve the discontinuation, but instead affirmed that the P&Z Commission decided that such a discontinuation would conform to the last approved Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD), approved in 2014.

Further coverage of the June 26 special meeting will be included in next week’s issue of The Newtown Bee, including how members voted.

At an earlier P&Z meeting on June 20, the commission made no decision on the 8-24 referral from the Board of Selectmen on whether or not to abandon an unused section of Reservoir Road.

The public was allowed to weigh in on the issue, as the commission decided to set a special meeting on June 26 to make its decision. The commission asked Land Use Director Rob Sibley to write a report on the discontinuance so that commission members could have a full understanding of what was going on so that they could render an informed decision.

The commission had 35 days from the June 3 BOS meeting to make a decision by state statute; if they did not make a decision they are considered to have given tacit approval. The Board of Selectmen is capable of making a decision on the road discontinuance at its meeting on Monday, July 15, but some residents have asked the selectmen to delay their decision. The BOS has no deadline to make its determination, unlike the P&Z.

The controversy over the issue lies between a developer who is looking to build a 117 home cluster subdivision on 40 acres of the 132 acre property, and residents who oppose not only the subdivision, but also the road discontinuance as the road is part of the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route.

Newtown Conservation Coalition founder Dave Ackert said Reservoir Road was “one of the last remaining undisturbed parts” of the Rochambeau Trail, and that it was a historic location in the middle of the historic borough, and felt it would be wrong to develop the property “to the benefit of only the developer, land owner, and a few real estate professionals.”

Ackert also told the commission that the “State and Federal governments” both “stand with the residents” against the subdivision, including the State Historic Preservation Office, National Parks Service, and the state archeologist.

Ackert noted that the 2024 Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) has goals both around the continued preservation of the historic past of Newtown and around applying to become a certified local government, which requires municipalities to “commit to local preservation” of natural resources and historic locations. Ackert also noted that the Borough of Newtown was already a certified local government.

“We all need to understand the absurdity of what is going on,” said Ackert, who expressed a belief the Borough could have its certified status revoked if it supports the road discontinuation. “This is not a good look for Newtown. The 250th anniversary of the Revolution is coming up next year; we should be spending our time doing what the rest of the state is doing: preparing to celebrate the anniversary, not discontinuing and erasing our history from the map.”

Commission Chairman David Rosen said the 2024 POCD was still in draft form and the 8-24 referral had to be considered under the approved 2014 POCD.

Resident Bob Eckenrode asked if there was anything that “could make things better for all involved,” and asked the commission to not approve the referral of the discontinuance of the road to the sole benefit of the land developer.

Resident Dottie Evans said she wanted to see “a better result for the land.” She called the 80 acres the developer would leave open “a tasty carrot” to get the public to accept the cluster home subdivision. But she had concerns with the loss of wildlife habitat and “degradation of the wetlands.”

“If denying this means the developer has to go back to the drawing board, then so be it,” said Evans.

Resident Diana Paproski of Castle Hill Farm said she had engaged engineers who suggested that the water from the cluster development would add 30% more runoff water onto her property, which would endanger her ability to grow crops.

Resident Faith Hathaway said she had always dreamt of raising a family in Newtown, but “thanks to the actions of the town government,” she is reconsidering that.

“I don’t want to raise kids in a town that doesn’t value its history or natural resources as they exist today,” said Hathaway.

Developer George Trudell spoke, noting that the road, and the property surrounding it, was part of the undeveloped land he would be giving to the town in a conservation easement. He also stated that without the road discontinuance, he would not be able to build the cluster development and would have to follow regulations requiring one acre per home, which would mean development of most of the property, including the side that otherwise would be completely undeveloped.

“Do you want us to develop the other side?” Trudell asked.

Resident Elliot Taylor spoke next, saying he found Trudell’s question “condescending.”

Resident Don Torre also challenged some of Trudell’s assertions at that meeting and previously, including calling out a proposed “alternate plan” that shows one-acre lots over the whole property. Torre said a lot of the land that showed houses had steep grades that were likely unbuildable.

Reservoir Road was previously voted to be discontinued in September 2023 by the previous Board of Selectmen. However, Ackert had sent a letter to the town noting that a state statute concerning signs warning about a potential discontinuance being placed at the entrances to a road to be discontinued did not appear to be followed. The Board of Selectmen restarted the process for the discontinuance earlier in June. Developer George Trudell withdrew his application for 117 cluster homes on 20-60 Castle Hill Road while the process of the discontinuance is ongoing. Trudell has said that he needs the road to be discontinued to develop the land the way his plans currently call for, on roughly 40 acres of the 132 acre property.

The homes will be built in a cluster using a specific town regulation, 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. There will be “large setbacks” around the homes from the surrounding roads.

According to Wikivoyage.org, The Washington–Rochambeau Revolutionary Route is a 680-mile National Historic Trail that describes a Continental Army campaign during the American War of Independence. It was designated in 2009, and has interpretative literature, signs and exhibits that describe France’s role in the war.

The route passes by many sites of early United States history, and connects to routes such as the Underground Railroad, Plymouth to Hampton Roads, St Augustine to Hampton Roads, and American Industry Tour. It travels through Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.

The trail begins in Newport, R.I. The northernmost end of the trail is in Boston, where Rochambeau’s troops left the United States on Christmas 1782.

Trudell has said that while the road is to be discontinued, it is on the portion of the property that will remain undeveloped. The developed 40 acres are well away from Reservoir Road.

Ackert said that the NCC is planning a trail walk and informational session on July 13, with further details forthcoming and Charles Zukowski acting as a guide.

Editor Jim Taylor can be reached at jim@thebee.com.

Comments are open. Be civil.
  1. tomj says:

    David Ackert brings up an excellent point, this project would benefit the “developer, Landowner, and real estate professional”. The key person there is the “Landowner”. When Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau was fighting alongside George Washington he was working to protect our freedoms and rights as Landowners.

    In this circumstance, the landowner does have rights. I hope the developer drops their plan for 117 cluster homes and decides to put in 132 one-acre homes instead.

    117 cluster homes on 20-60 Castle Hill Road while the process of the discontinuance is ongoing. Trudell has said that he needs the road to be discontinued to develop the land the way his plans currently call for, on roughly 40 acres of the 132 acre property.

    1. wingeey says:

      What about the rights of the landowners next to and downstream from the developer’s properties? And what about the rights of the public who currently owns the historic road? Your logic is flawed on many fronts. There are many wetlands and steep slopes on the 136 acres in question. Professional engineers familiar with the two properties assert that he’d be lucky to be able to build 40-50 homes under the regular zoning regulations, with 1 acre zoning.

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