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BRAC Eyeing High Meadow Site For Military Training Center



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BRAC Eyeing High Meadow Site For Military Training Center

By John Voket

The panoramic 360 degree views of Connecticut’s rolling hills as seen after an easy stroll to the peak of High Meadow on the Fairfield Hills campus could be restricted to just a relative few if the military rolls in and develops a 13- to 18-acre site targeted for an Army Reserve training center there. According to First Selectman Joe Borst, he is in favor of listening to what the US Army Reserve has to say, after releasing an unclassified proposal on the development to The Newtown Bee on November 4.

Mr Borst said because of the need for immediate proximity to other military installations, including the Governor’s Horse Guard center with property along Wasserman Way, the High Meadow and East Meadow sections of the former state hospital campus are the only appropriate future sites.

“We tried to show them the Tech Park area but they would have to construct a bridge over the stream down there,” Mr Borst said Tuesday. While acknowledging the proposal is in discussion phase only, the documentation from the First Selectman indicates that if approved, the town could recover a one-time profit from the sale of the land to the government.

Chris Kelsey, Newtown’s Assessor, said at an average market rate of $9 per square foot for commercial development with no adjustments, the 18 acre maximum footprint of land at the campus would be worth $7,056,720 with an assessed value of about $4.9 million.

State and federal government installations of this nature, however, are exempt from the tax rolls, Mr Phelps said. Mr Borst added that there would be no further benefit to the town as only state installations like the Garner correctional facility provide municipal payments in lieu of taxes or PILOT funds.

According to a memo, economic benefits would come from the base contracting services like cleaning, security, landscaping, food and collateral spending of salaries of personnel in area businesses. The memo states the approximate population of the base would max out at 350 Army reservists and as many as 220 Connecticut National Guard troops.

Activities in the facility would include indoor classroom training and administration, limited physical fitness training to be performed outside, an operational maintenance shop for minor motor vehicle repairs and indoor as well as outdoor storage of vehicles.

The $35 to $55 million complex would centralize activities currently being carried out at several smaller regional National Guard armories and training centers from Naugatuck to Norwalk, as well as the Army Reserve Centers in Fairfield, Waterbury and Danbury, Mr Borst said.

If the project moves forward, an estimated completion date is set for September 2011. Mr Borst said he favors the town giving the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission or BRAC officials an opportunity to explain the plans to residents at a town meeting yet to be scheduled.

“So far it’s in discussion phase only...no commitment, no promises,” the First Selectman said. “But I’m open minded to having them come in and talk about [the base proposal] at a public meeting.”

Mr Borst suggested the one-time profit from the land sale could underwrite the balance of demolition and development of the core Fairfield Hills campus.

The eventual development could encompass up to ten acres for the main building and parking, and utilize another three- to eight-acre restricted buffer zone around the perimeter.

Currently the High Meadow is among the region’s most popular hiking sites because of its relatively easy access from the lower campus area at Fairfield Hills.

Democratic selectman and former first selectman Herb Rosenthal said the lack of any ongoing tax revenue to the town makes the proposal a loser for the town.

“It’s more traffic for the town and some traffic to businesses, that’s it,” Mr Rosenthal said. “I can’t see trading this pristine open space for that. There’s nothing else coming. We left this for open space or some future development, maybe a future school site or something providing a significant ongoing return to the town.”

Mr Rosenthal said the current zoning on the site is 150 acre minimum and the town owns 186, so it cannot be subdivided. There was no answer at the contact number for Lt Colonel Floyd L. Harrington, Jr., the BRAC Deputy Regional Engineer who Mr Borst identified as a contact for the project.

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