On September 11, there will be a Planning and Zoning meeting to discuss the Oven Rock Partners potential plans to develop the property at Knollwood Drive, Bethpage Drive and Reservoir Street.
The current plan, negotiated through compromise in a 2011 lawsuit, states that 12 condominiums could be built on approximately one acre of land. The back side of the condos would face the older single-family homes on Reservoir Street and Bethpage Drive. Right now, homes on Reservoir face two modest family homes and the wooded property of Oven Rock.
According to Planning and Zoning Director Steve Palmer and Inland-Wetlands Director Beth Cavagna, the condos will be three stories tall, and more densely populated than the rest of the neighborhood; they will be 600 to 900 square feet, one bedroom, with very limited area. The units will not be suitable for sale and will be solely rentals. “People will drive down the street and they will see the back of these units,” Cavagna said.
Palmer also believes that the condos are inappropriate for the area. He said, “The quality of life of that neighborhood would be effected. It is a very well established neighborhood and the proposed development is really going to be out of character.”
While this project has been controversial to the neighborhood, the compromise reflected a reduction in the number of condo units from an original request to build 23 units to 12. “The commission wasn’t happy with the negotiation from 23 units to 12, but the prospect of losing the law suit that would have allowed 23 units was a great concern, so we settled on a compromise that neither the applicant or town was pleased with,” Palmer said.
The plan is not yet set in stone. According to First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker, Oven Rock Partner Jeff Davenport recently came back with another proposal. Knickerbocker said, “Jeff is from Bethel and he knows how sensitive the town is to the situation. He has made an offer where instead of putting in 12 condos, they would put in two to three small family homes.”
Knickerbocker said the catch is that the partnership wants the town to buy the rest of land for $165,000.
Palmer said that this arrangement is an opportunity for the town to invest in that neighborhood by purchasing the development rights in lieu of building multi-family housing. “Single family housing is in keeping with the character of the neighborhood,” Palmer said.
For the last few years, the abandoned house that sits on the property has deteriorated and the yard is now heavily vegetated. The house can no longer be seen from the street. Knickerbocker said the owners have had a demolition permit, and neighbors have been calling for it to be torn down for years.
“Now that the economy has begun to improve, they are starting to move on it,” Knickerbocker said.
“They could go in tomorrow and build this,” Cavagna warned.
Whether or not the property is bought by the town, one result of the lawsuit was that 6.44 acres will be deeded to the town for Open Space. The land contains wetlands and flood storage as well as the enormous Oven Rock, not currently visible due to the foliage.
Cavagna believes there is value to the property, and said she hopes the town will at least look at the proposal, “because the neighbors have been through a lot.”
According to Cavagna the neighbors were “very actively involved, organized, well-spoken people” who worked hard to keep this development from happening. “It is a good, old, well established neighborhood and I want the people to have a good discussion and go through the process,” Cavagna said.
Shaking her head, she said, “You put something like this in...I see what these neighbors have gone through and we should at least look at this.”