NEWINGTON – The majority of those who raised their voices about a proposed development on Cedar St. at a recent hearing were in its favor.
The Town Plan & Zoning Commission heard from more than a dozen people during a July 10 public hearing on regulations to govern a future Transit Village Development District (TVDD).
The district would encompass 64 acres north and south of Cedar St., west of Maple Hill Ave. and adjacent to a Hartford-New Haven line rail station the Department of Transportation intends to build. It would include housing, retail, restaurants and outdoor gathering spaces. Town officials are creating regulations to guide developers towards their desired framework, but also demonstrate to the DOT Newington’s willingness to participate in such a project.
“I would love to see something like this happen in Newington; I think it’s a great idea,” Hal Whitney told TPZ.
“I wish I was a commissioner on TPZ, if I was I would vote yes,” Mary Udice said. “I feel it’s time Newington moves forward and not backwards. I would love to be able to take a train into the city and come back the same day,” she added. “I’m so tired of the negativity I read day in and day out and hear about our town.”
Residents who frequent social media may have misinformation about the proposal, including artistic renderings of a site plan that has yet to be created.
“This is entirely conceptual,” Brecher said, clarifying that a master plan would be the job of a design committee.
Many people who spoke at the hearing agreed that the project would increase Newington’s grand list, a priority for taxpayers, whose property bills have been on the rise in recent years.
“Twenty years ago we were fortunate enough to have grand list growth,” Probate Judge and Former Mayor Robert Randich said. “I just hope as you go through this you think as much about the positives that can result if things go right and less about everything that could go wrong. We have to be more aggressive as a town.”
“The grand list has to go up and if you put something like this in, it will go up,” William Prentice said. “It’s a no-brainer. It should be easily adopted so the DOT can get moving.”
According to Brecher, the town must have regulations prepared by the year’s end in order to ensure funding for the train station and necessary road improvements to Rt. 175 in the DOT’s 2020 capital program.
Neil Page told the TPZ he’s a planner and appreciates the town’s interest in such a progressive development.
“We don’t have a lot of opportunities available to us in Connecticut like this,” Page said. “We’re lucky to have this presented right here in front of us.”
Board of Education member Sharon Braverman asked that the body consider the potential impact to the school system, with an estimated 120 students living in 600 units of housing proposed.
“I think the school system and the board is more than capable of absorbing 100 plus students over a period of years,” Brecher responded. “The economic return far outweighs any costs we could imagine as a town,” he went on to add.
Several residents who live off of Maple Hill Ave. voiced concerns about a buffer between the development and their residences.
“We don’t necessarily want to look at a six-story building or a parking lot,” Chris Bieszczad said.
“Nowhere in town do have a six story building,” Jim Lynch added. “What would anyone want to do putting one in a residential neighborhood?”
The TPZ is expected to continue accepting comments, questions and concerns at its next meeting July 24.
“We’re going to continue this hearing at the next meeting,” Chairman Frank Aieta said. “The public will have another opportunity to weigh in on this.”
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.