By John Fitts
Members of a well known Canton family have purchased the “Satan’s Kingdom” property along Route 44 on which Torrington developer Allan Borghesi had once proposed to build an industrial park spanning Canton and New Hartford.
Earlier this month, New Hartford Marketplace, LLC, of which Henry J. Bahre, John H. Bahre and Daniel K. Bahre are members, purchased the property, which includes more than 50 acres of land in Canton and New Hartford, from Satan’s Kingdom, LLC., managed by Borghesi. The sale, one of two main property exchanges between the parties, also included some easements and minor lot line adjustments with a neighboring landowner. Paperwork from both towns indicates that the total price was $700,000.
Borghesi’s proposal to change the zoning on the property from residential to industrial was granted for the New Hartford portion but, after much controversy, he withdrew a similar application in Canton. He later informally discussed a plan for housing but never actually applied for such a use.
This week, Henry Bahre said the partners still need to discuss exact plans for the property but he did make it clear that residential would not be his preferred use of the land.
“Single family homes along the highway there is not the best use of the property,” Bahre said. “There’s more benefit to the town to have something that produces taxes.”
Henry Bahre is a well-known town developer, realtor and president of Canton Village Shopping Center and Canton Village Construction, the latter of which John and Daniel Bahre are also principals.
Henry Bahre acknowledged that some people would like the land to remain undeveloped but said the family has a good reputation in town and he pointed out he also lives in the vicinity.
“We’re pretty well versed in what should be done for the town,” Bahre said. “I never allow myself to do something I wouldn’t be proud of. We’re going to work on it slowly and, as usual, do it right.”
Site work does continue on the New Hartford side of the property.
What development or lack thereof is appropriate for the land has been a hot topic in Canton.
In June of 2014, the New Hartford Planning and Zoning Commission granted Borghesi a change in use from residential to industrial for nearly 19 acres in that town.
While the New Hartford hearings concerning the change were well attended and involved controversy, a similar proposal for a change in use for 30 or 39 acres in Canton met with especially fierce resistance from some residents.
Opponents were especially vocal and efforts included a facebook page, petitions and public signs, arguing that the project posed a threat to safety, the character of the area and the nearby Farmington River. Many also opposed plans to partially re-grade a portion of the land. A “Save Satan’s Kingdom” Facebook page was also started early in the process, remains active and as of Friday morning had 2,882 likes.
Though fewer spoke publicly, some Canton residents also supported the project, citing the benefit of tax dollars, jobs and the rights of a property owner.
Hundreds signed up to speak at a Canton Sept. 17, 2014 hearing on the matter. Only approximately one third of those who signed up spoke at that meeting and the hearing was continued to a later date but Borghesi withdrew the application before it took place.
As of Thursday afternoon, Canton town planner Neil Pade confirmed that no new application was on file for the property.
Some of those reached by Canton Compass, said it was a matter of seeing what happens next.
“He (Bahre) should be sensitive to our sentiments, what the town wants and what the town needs, particularly his neighbors,” said Canton resident Elaine Morisano, a member of Save Satan’s Kingdom.
Morisano is also disappointed that a proposal to conserve the land was not pursued.
In late 2014 and early 2015, Borghesi informally discussed a housing development for the property but at a public meeting said he would consider conservation if the right plan materialized.
Jay Kaplan, co-president of the Canton Land Trust, said that after the application was withdrawn, there were preliminary discussions with Borghesi about a round of open space grants, in which the state pays as much as 50 percent of the appraised value of a property. Kaplan said that the developer didn’t want to wait several months to see if the grant would even be awarded.
“He decided that wasn’t in his best interest,” Kaplan said.
Earlier this year, Borghesi made similar public comments, saying that he needed things to happen in a timely manner.
In the end, however, it did take several months before the property sold, Morisano said.
“It’s been that long – so that was really disappointing,” Morisano said.
Reached briefly this week, Borghesi simply said conservation talks did not work out and that he decided to sell this property and purchase another piece of land owned by land owned by New Hartford Marketplace, LLC.
“I bought the property to build buildings,” he said of the Satan’s Kingdom land. “The reaction from the townspeople in Canton made it such that it was impossible.”
Borghesi is in the process of establishing a business park on 13.51 acres further west on Route 44 in New Hartford, beyond Marandino’s. He purchased that land from New Hartford Marketplace, LLC for $500,000, according to paperwork filed in New Hartford.
In August, the town of New Hartford Planning and Zoning Commission approved a subdivision for the property, separating it from a much larger parcel. There Borghesi plans to build four industrial buildings, one of which is also approved and in progress.
He said it’s New Hartford that will benefit with taxes and jobs.
Kaplan said he would also withhold specific comment to see what is eventually proposed on the property.
“We wait to see what Mr. Bahre plans to do with regard to any future development on the property,” Kaplan said.
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