Bethel’s Clarke Park to ex­pand

Terre Haute space to be pre­served

The News-Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Ju­lia Perkins

BETHEL — Plans to add four lots to Clarke Busi­ness Park, while still pre­serv­ing nearby land, could bring an es­ti­mated $132,000 a year in tax rev­enue to the town.

“It’s go­ing to im­prove the town’s tax base and pro­vide jobs,” First Select­man Matt Knicker­bocker said. “We’re anx­ious to move for­ward.”

The ex­pan­sion is ex­pected to cost $950,000. The boards of se­lect­men and fi­nance, as well as res­i­dents at a spe­cial town meet­ing, will have to vote on whether to ap­prove the fund­ing. About $50,000 from a state grant to plan the project will be put to­ward the cost.

The Plan­ning and Zon­ing Com­mis­sion, when ap­prov­ing the project re­cently, also voted to pre­serve 25 acres of space on the Terre Haute prop­erty, where the park is lo­cated. This land is off Tur­nage Lane and in­cludes the pond where decades ago the fam­ily who lived at a nearby es­tate got its ice.

The area is one of the only spots where peo­ple can ac­cess the Terre Haute prop­erty from the Bethel side, Town Plan­ner Beth Cav­agna said. About 200 acres of the prop­erty are in Bethel, while the rest is in Dan­bury.

A species called Jef­fer­son sala­man­ders also live on the land, Cav­agna said. The state con­sid­ers these rep­tiles to be a “species of spe­cial con­cern” and says they are “highly sen­si­tive” to ur­ban­iza­tion and the dis­rup­tion of their habi­tats.

“I look at it as a start­ing point for us to start look­ing at how we’re go­ing to use the rest of this prop­erty,” Cav­agna said. “The ma­jor­ity of it is so valu­able as open space.”

The zon­ing com­mis­sion asked the Board of Se­lect­men to form a Con­ser­va­tion Com­mis­sion to ex­am­ine how this prop­erty and other open space could be used. Knicker­bocker said he is work­ing on cre­at­ing the com­mis­sion.

The preser­va­tion of the land is not ex­pected to hurt ex­pan­sion of the park, said Jan­ice Chrzesci­janek, di­rec­tor of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

“Most of that prop­erty up there is prob­a­bly not de­vel­opable land,” she said. “It doesn’t have any im­pact on the cur­rent de­vel­op­ment. If there were go­ing to be any fu­ture de­vel­op­ment of the park, it prob­a­bly wouldn't im­pact that ei­ther.”

Chrzesci­janek said the state is ex­pected to soon ap­prove the plans to ex­tend Trow­bridge Drive, a cul-de­sac in the park, and add wa­ter and sewer lines. She said she hopes con­struc­tion, which would take three to six months, can start in the late sum­mer or early fall.

“It’s go­ing to im­prove the town’s tax base and pro­vide jobs. We’re anx­ious to move for­ward.” First Select­man Matt Knicker­bocker

Dur­ing that time, the town would mar­ket the prop­er­ties to busi­nesses, who could start build­ing as soon as the in­fra­struc­ture is com­plete, Chrzesci­janek said.

The lots could be per­fect for Bethel busi­nesses that want to grow, she said.

“We ac­tu­ally have very few prop­er­ties for smaller busi­nesses look­ing to ex­pand,” Chrzesci­janek said. “This could be a pos­si­bil­ity for them, which keeps busi­nesses in Bethel. That’s our goal. We want them to start here and we want them to ex­pand here.”

She an­tic­i­pates that light man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­nies could move into the space.

The town had been un­able to add busi­nesses to the park be­cause of a lack of wa­ter pres­sure and vol­ume. The com­ple­tion of the Eureka wa­ter tank, a 750,000-gal­lon tank in Dan­bury, made ex­pan­sion pos­si­ble.

Chrzesci­janek said the Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Com­mis­sion will con­tinue to ex­plore ways to ex­pand the park, but that it could be a long way off.

“It’s go­ing to be many, many years be­fore we would be se­ri­ously look­ing at other op­por­tu­ni­ties,” she said.

Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia file photo

The Clarke Busi­ness Park in Bethel.

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