Bethel’s Clarke Park to expand
Terre Haute space to be preserved
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.
The Clarke Business Park in Bethel.