BOS Rejects Acquiring Small Parcel Off Route 34
With little discussion during a brief meeting September 3, the Board of Selectmen rejected a right of first refusal to purchase a small interior parcel of state land adjacent to a proposed commercial development on Berkshire Road.
The one-sixth acre parcel at 32 Berkshire Road abuts a proposed commercial facility on property owned by James Walsh. That proposed development was the subject of a Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) the following night, and a scheduled Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) hearing Thursday, September 5.
“This parcel is in the vicinity of a development that has gotten some scrutiny from the public and has gone through Planning & Zoning once,” Mr Rosenthal told colleagues Selectmen Maureen Crick Owen and Jeff Capeci.
The proposed retail complex would encompass a four-tenant building that includes a 2,250-square-foot coffee shop and three other tenants on a 2.86-acre site along Route 34 between the Route 84 overpass and Toddy Hill Road.
First Selectman Dan Rosenthal said he decided to have the board weigh in on the state offer instead of opting to make the decision himself.
Rob Sibley, Newtown’s Deputy Director of Planning and Land Use, was on hand and further explained that, “They have two applications — one for a variance associated with a setback for parking, and they’re up for a zone change.”
Mr Rosenthal said it has been determined that whether the town purchased the state parcel or not, “it would not be consequential” to the adjacent project.
“At a cost of $46,000, the land use agency sees no reason to purchase it,” the first selectman said. “But given the public awareness of this site, I wanted to make it clear that this piece of land does not make or break the proposed development project.”
Mr Sibley added that the property in and around the proposed development has “had myriad changes to it” dating back to the mid-1980s, when the town abandoned a road in the area and a residential house was razed to make room for Route 34.
“This triangle of property that you’re looking at was part of the old D’Addario estate,” Mr Sibley said. In the ensuing years, the Walsh family has used the property to create and expand a mulch business, he said.
The family has since sold part of the land to another mulch business owner and kept just under three acres for themselves, the land use officer said.
“So this triangle [of land] has been floating around for years. It rests between this private property and [state highway land]. So that’s why we’re not endorsing the town to acquire it,” Mr Sibley said.
Selectmen Crick-Owen said she reviewed the recommendation as submitted by Director of Planning George Benson and concurred with the decision. She then motioned to pass on the right of first refusal, and the motion passed unanimously.
The selectmen’s vote opens the avenue for Mr Walsh to negotiate purchasing the land-locked wedge of state land himself. If purchased by the developer, the added one-sixth acre of land would allow him to increase the area to be commercially developed.