A major development on the Stony Hill Inn property on Route 6, is in the early stages of planning. The initial proposal for the development calls for the creation of a mixed commercial and residential community with 230 housing units, several commercial businesses and a small – town green style – park complete with its own gazebo.
Town officials hope this development will be the first of many along the Route 6 Corridor, which runs through Bethel from its border with Danbury to its border with Newtown. Bethel officials believe the corridor has huge, untapped, potential for residential and commercial development.
The town's grand plan for Route 6 calls for the creation of attractive, classic New England main street style storefronts, with small one or two residential units behind the stores and above them.
Steve Palmer, Bethel's Town Planner, said that the town hopes to develop buildings on the corridor where “there might be retail on the first floor, and housing above on the second and third floor.” He added that sidewalks “will hopefully run from the Newtown border to the Danbury border.”
If the current vision for the area becomes a reality, Route 6 will become an alternate town center and one that Palmer said will bring new residents to Bethel, and enhance rather than compete with Bethel's current downtown area.
The residents the town is looking to attract are young professionals and retirement aged individuals. Attracting more residents who don't have kids enrolled in the school system and increasing commercial activity will ultimately give Bethel a huge boost in tax revenue, Palmer said.
Bethel's First Selectman, Matt Knickerbocker, said the Route 6 Corridor is a great asset to Bethel.
“Bethel is very fortunate that we have a corridor up on Route 6 that will provide very strong tax revenue,” he said. He added, “we really have at this point, a plan of conservation and development that does call for development of commercial space but also acquisition by the town of more open space.”
He added, “we'd like to see the types of business go in there that do not create a lot of traffic congestion.”
Palmer said an area of open space on Route 6 has been identified by the town as a possible location for a wetlands walking trail. He added, that pains would be taken to ensure scenic areas along Route 6 are left untouched – including the pond at Stony Hill Inn, which will be unaffected by the plans for development on the property.
Route 6 is currently anchored by Big Y and Target, which are both giant retail stores. It was around the time Target opened, about seven years ago, that Bethel officials first began to explore the potential of Route 6.
“What we realized in 2005 and 2006, when we first started focusing on Route 6, was that it was a really untapped economic development area for the town,” he said.
The town completed a study on the corridor in 2007. The study recommended mixed use development and Bethel's plan for the corridor was formed as a result of the study.
Since the study was completed, the town has worked to change regulations on Route 6 to accommodate the town's plans for the corridor.
“Until February of this year our regulations[for Route 6] didn't permit residential housing,” Palmer said. “So we amended our regulations. We decided we would keep the density of housing consistent with all of our other commercial zones, [such as downtown] so we would permit up to 10 units per acre of land. We thought that that was a good ratio because other commercial areas in town have been able to support that density.”
The final plan for The Stony Hill Inn development is expected to be submitted to the Planning and Zoning Commission at some point this summer. Palmer said there is plenty of available property along Route 6 and there is interest from other developers.
“We think that if The Stony Hill Inn project comes to fruition, that this is just going to be the start of what we see as a successful development model for Route 6,” he said.