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Request Could Dampen Developer's Plan To Sell Acreage As Open Space

Published: March 13, 2018 at 12:00 am

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The core of Cherry Grove Farm is captured in this photograph of the barn and surrounding outbuildings. The preservation of open space here is currently challenged by zoning regulations that could prevent the purchase of a portion of the property by…
The core of Cherry Grove Farm is captured in this photograph of the barn and surrounding outbuildings. The preservation of open space here is currently challenged by zoning regulations that could prevent the purchase of a portion of the property by the Newtown Forest Association. (photo courtesy Greg Carnrick)
A difference of opinions between the town and a local developer regarding whether he is required to pave, curb, and landscape a portion of Beaver Dam Road may sour a pending land preservation deal in that location.

The Newtown Forest Association has plans to purchase for $600,000 roughly 30 acres of Cherry Grove Farm land from Greg Carnrick of GRC Construction LLC to preserve the fields, forest, streams, and meadows as open space. The acres sit along the portion of Beaver Dam Road in question.

On the P&Z agenda for Thursday, March 15, is an application by GRC Construction LLC, where the stipulation of paving and other road improvements arises.

Will the issue prompt problems with the NFA purchase?

"This ruins the deal with the NFA; it goes away," said Mr Carnrick. The deal "hinges on whether or not I have to pave."

Mr Carnrick has an agreement to transfer land to NFA "once P&Z approves the application. I have a contract [with the NFA], pending the P&Z approval." The NFA in past months has raised nearly the full $600,000 through donations to purchase the farmland. "If the application is denied … the whole thing is contingent on P&Z," Mr Carnrick said.

"They're going to ask me to pave," Mr Carnrick said. If so, he added, "I'm going to have to make my case."

He bought the Cherry Grove Farm property "with intentions of developing it, so financially" how he sells or develops the property "has to make sense," he said. Developing the land would have been more lucrative than selling to the NFA, so he is concerned at the additional paving expense, he said.

"If they make me pave, then it defeats purpose of selling to [the NFA] for a more reasonable price," he said.

Mr Carnrick was able to "pass savings on to the NFA," should he be spared the cost of paving. "I understand the town's position, but I don't think there is a person in the neighborhood who would rather have a paved road than a preserve."

He feels it is "absurd" that the town would require him to pave the road "even though it's not being developed."

He hopes people in support of his application will attend the P&Z meeting. "So many people have told me that the preservation is 'great,'" and he hopes they come out Thursday.

Newtown Forest Association Vice President Bart Smith said, "I'm optimistic," about the NFA prospects of purchasing the Cherry Grove property. He also has seen Town Engineer Ron Bolmer's letter to Planning and Zoning Chairman Donald Mitchell, saying, "I think it's a recommendation. There could be the argument that paving does not need not be done, but it is open to interpretation. It's a hurdle for [Mr Carnrick]."

Can the developer back out of his deal with the NFA?

"There is always that potential," Mr Smith said. However, Planning and Zoning may accept the application, but "with conditions he may not want to follow," Mr Smith added.

"We plan on speaking as a group" at the meeting, Mr Smith said. "We feel it's a good deal for the town. I'm optimistic. He could back out. All contracts are subject to provisions and in this case it's P&Z approval. Technically I think he could...," he said.

Mr Bolmer on March 9 sent a memo to Mr Mitchell regarding an application for a two-lot subdivision at 70 Platts Hill Road from GRC Construction LLC, owned by resident Greg Carnrick. The GRC application involves "Property Survey and Subdivision of Cherry Grove Farm, Prepared for GRC Construction, Beaver Dam, Platts Hill and Palestine Road…"

To Mr Mitchell, Mr Bolmer stated that he had "reviewed the … application," and offered comments citing portions of subdivision regulations "not satisfied" among his concerns. Mr Bolmer also refers to a "preapplication meeting with the applicant" when the engineering department "requested that a section of Beaver Dam Road … be paved, curbed, and the shoulders landscaped. This has been common practice in the past when undeveloped land capable of being developed exists on both sides of the street." Mr Bolmer notes, "A former applicant who subdivided the property across the street was required to upgrade this road."

Mr Bolmer's letter states, "The engineering department and public works department request that this work be done. A formal Road and Drainage Work Agreement will be necessary for this."

Regarding the town engineer's letter to the zoning chairman days prior to a P&Z meeting where Mr Carnrick planned to appear, Mr Carnrick sent an e-mail to The Newtown Bee saying, "The Town Engineer is requesting that the P&Z reject the proposal." He asserts that the property along Beaver Dam is under pending sale to the NFA for preservation and is not going to be developed. He questions why the town engineer insists he incur the expense of road improvements.

Refer to the newtown-ct.gov website for updates or changes to Thursday's P&Z agenda items.

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Newtown Cultural Arts Commission is presenting or coordinating on six weeks of special events. Which event are you looking forward to the most? (Visit our Features page for a full story with details about all of these events.)

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