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Selectmen Delay Decision to Set Referendum Question for Public Works Project

The latest plan borrows heavily from the Barkhamsted facility, gets the facility to one level and brings the price below $4 million

The latest plan borrows heavily from the Barkhamsted facility, gets the facility to one level and brings the price below $4 million

Special Meeting to be Held Aug. 31

By John Fitts

CANTON – While it’s a near certainty that a proposal to rebuild the Public Works Facility at its current site will go to voters in November, selectmen on Wednesday deferred the decision another week.

And while selectmen briefly touched on the merits of the project and the process, the real controversy of the evening came during the public comment portion of the Board of Selectmen meeting.

The town is looking to construct a 14,140 square foot building at the 50 Old River Road site with approximately 11,500 square feet of storage space, 2,640 square feet of office space, a new generator, a new salt shed, revamped parking and relocated fueling station. The current facility consists of an old horse barn, a couple small bays and small office area.

On Monday, the Board of Finance approved forwarding a plan to voters for $3.825 million – $3.75 million for the project and $75,000 to cover the costs associated with bonding, the town’s method of borrowing for the project and paying it over time through a yearly tax levy. Selectmen now need to take final action to set a question, due in early September, for the November ballot.

There has been much discussion in town about the concept of rebuilding at the current site. Earlier this year, town staff came up with the plan for a garage that was smaller – and potentially less expensive – than previous incarnations. Most recently, in May of 2013 and November of 2014, voters defeated $5.4 million and $4.78 million plans for 325 Commerce Drive, at sizes of 19,000 feet or more.

In a public hearing earlier in the summer, numerous residents spoke against the plan to rebuild on site. Several have continued to do so and recently, the registered Political Action Committee Not On Our River  has continued to fight the idea, stating that it compromises valuable riverfront, doesn’t adequately deal with floodplain issues, is short-sighted and leaves virtually no option for future expansion.

On Wednesday some of the strongest public opinion, however, came from someone who is supporting the project and passed around a paper he feels “debunks” the arguments of NOOR, stating, for example, that the current site is actually least expensive, will meet the needs for the DPW, conforms to land-use standards and received a positive referral from the town Planning and Zoning Commission.

In his comments, Lans Perry went as far as to refer to some opponents as the “Chablis-swilling” elite” and his handouts take aim at “the river nuts,” “self-interested Satan’s Kingdom residents,” Canton Land Conservation Trust, Inc.”, “Self Interested land Speculators, developers and brokers” and more.

In his remarks, Perry referenced his family’s long history of activism and called this issue one of social justice.

“The brothers have suffered long enough,” Perry said. “They won’t complain because they are tough. But they suffer, too. We pay for it in rusting trucks and higher taxes.”

He later called the idea of those who say they will support it elsewhere a “worthless promise” and said neighborhoods will always fight if the project goes anywhere else.

“The current site is the cheapest and has a very real chance of passage with your support,” he said. “We need that support. Please help our suffering brothers now.”

David Sinish, who is treasurer of NOOR and has supported past Public Works proposals, spoke briefly at the meeting and addressed the comments, particularly ones that mentioned first names and streets.

“It’s not often that one gets attacked personally in a public meeting and I’m quite offended at that as well as I’m sure are the people I’m sitting with,” he said. “So I want to have that on the record.” … Continue Reading

Public Works Facility Plan For Current Site Is One Step Closer to November Vote

The concept of rebuilding at 50 Old River Road.

The concept of rebuilding at 50 Old River Road.

By John Fitts 

With Board of Finance approval Monday night, a plan to rebuild a 14,140 square foot public works facility at its current site near the Farmington River – and bond for the project –  is one step closer to a November referendum.

On Monday, in its second meeting on the issue, the finance board approved a resolution for a project not to exceed $3.825 million, First Selectman Leslee Hill said. (Canton Compass editor John Fitts was out-of-town for the meeting). The town is looking at a $3.75 million plan to build a new facility at the 50 Old River Road site. The additional $75,000 would be to cover the costs associated with bonding, essentially the town’s way to pay for the project, with interest, over time.

The project is designed to cover final design, construction and equipping of a new facility, the partial demolition of existing facilities, lowering the ball field on site for floodplain mitigation, and potentially improving the existing access road that serves as both the roadway and Farmington River Trail.

… Continue Reading

Town to Further Investigate ‘Satan’s Kingdom’ Site, Consider Surveying Residents About Town Garage Options

Some selectmen are intrigued with the idea of placing a town garage at this Route 44 site but want further information on cost, options for the entire parcel and other factors.

Some selectmen are intrigued with the idea of placing a town garage at this Route 44 site but want further information on cost, options for the entire parcel and other factors.

By John Fitts

Before deciding on a final direction for the next iteration of a proposed public works facility, the Board of Selectmen is seeking further information for the “Satan’s Kingdom” property and strongly considering a public survey.

For years the town has looked to replace its aging, rapidly deteriorating facility along the Farmington River at 50 Old River Road. Since 2010, three town garage related referendums have failed and a fourth plan never quite made it to voters. Earlier this year, the town developed a concept to rebuild at its current location and incorporate river access and amenities. But the idea of rebuilding near the river at the current site has met with some resistance from residents – many of whom spoke out a recent hearing on garage options.

While that recent hearing opened up discussion on several sites, selectmen on Wednesday essentially narrowed their focus to two – the current one and the “Satan’s Kingdom” parcels.

In 2014, the “Satan’s Kingdom” property, consisting of 40 acres over two lots at 674 and 684 Albany Turnpike (Route 44), was the subject of bitter controversy after developer Allan Borghesi proposed it for an industrial park, a plan he eventually withdrew. He later sold the property to an LLC run by members of the Bahre Family.

But in its multi-year search, the town has also long mulled the idea of a project on the Albany Turnpike property.

Before Borghesi purchased it in late 2013, town officials and the Permanent Municipal Building Committee discussed a project that could include a garage and recreation fields. More recently, the building committee suggested looking at it again and the town says the parcels are available for $1.2 million.

Selectmen are intrigued with the idea of building in the front, eastern portion of the property but have a myriad of question on how the plan would fare in comparison to rebuilding at the river, which the town is approximating as a $4.5 million project. … Continue Reading

Officials Explore Idea of Rebuilding at Current Public Works Site While Improving River Access, Amenities

A preliminary concept for rebuilding at the current Public Works site near the Farmington River.

The town’s preliminary concept for rebuilding at the current Public Works site near the Farmington River, while improving recreational amenities and allowing space for potential future expansion of the neighboring Water Pollution Control Facility.

By John Fitts 

CANTON — While it would involve a smaller footprint than the town sought in recent referenda, town officials are exploring the idea of constructing a new public works facility at the current site, with a new access road from Route 179 and recreational improvements for the Farmington River Trail and access to the Farmington River.

Town officials, including Chief Administrative Officer Robert Skinner, Public Works Director Robert Martin and Project Administrator George M. Wallace presented the preliminary idea to the Board of Selectman on Wednesday night and will next gauge reaction from regulatory boards such as Planning and Zoning and the Inland Wetlands Watercourse agency.

The idea would be to build a two-story, nearly 15,000-square-foot main building closer to Route 179, an approximate 1,500 square-foot salt shed, while constructing the new access road, improving the softball field at the site, improving river access, adding parking for recreation and perhaps utilizing the old “horse barn” that serves as much of the current facility for public restrooms and potentially other amenities.  … Continue Reading

‘Satan’s Kingdom’ Property Changes Hands

A portion of the Satan's Kingdom site along Route 44 in Canton.

A portion of the Satan’s Kingdom site along Route 44 in Canton.

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.  … Continue Reading

A Collinsville Landmark Falls With the Wind

This tree, a perch for Bald Eagles in Collinsville, has fallen victim to the heavy winds.  Photo by Stephen Roberto

This tree, a perch for Bald Eagles in Collinsville, has fallen victim to the heavy winds.
Photo by Stephen Roberto

Collinsville residents, photographers and others expressed disappointment Wednesday as they learned that a dead tree that regular hosted America’s National bird was gone, presumably a victim of the high winds over the past two days.

The tree, which stood near the banks of the Farmington River, was a regular host to several bird species, most notably Bald Eagles.

Dan Phelan, an area resident and outdoor enthusiast, made a habit of walking his dog on the Farmington River Trail along the river in Collinsville.

“There were amazing sunrises, incredible fog banks rolling down to the river from sweetheart mountain, and geese galore. But those experiences all paled in comparison to the mornings when the baldies were hanging out in their tree,” he said. “Seeing our country’s bird thriving in Collinsville, was and still is, a moment that always forces me to take a deep breath, and reflect on how incredible nature is.” … Continue Reading

Letter: Farmington River Volunteers Sought

FRCClogoNGNT524Do you enjoy being outdoors?  Have you ever wanted to make a difference in your community?  The Farmington River Coordinating Committee (FRCC) is seeking volunteers for the summer of 2015 to help preserve and protect the Farmington River, and make it a safe and fun place to recreate on.  This is a great opportunity for students to build experience, or for adults to get involved with something they believe in.

These ‘Assistant River Stewards’ will have several responsibilities including:

– Being a presence on the river during busy times
– Teaching proper river etiquette to the various users – fishermen, kayakers, tubers
– Collecting information about users’ experiences on the river
– Reporting any river hazards encountered
– Helping to pick up trash along the river
… Continue Reading

Congressional Representatives Re-Introduce Lower Farmington River and Salmon Brook Wild and Scenic River Act

Submitted release

WASHINGTON – On Monday, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), U.S. Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.), and U.S. Congressman John Larson (D-Conn.) reintroduced the Lower Farmington River and Salmon Brook Wild and Scenic River Act, which, if enacted, would create a U.S. National Park Service protective designation for the Lower Farmington River and Salmon Brook that run through ten Connecticut towns. With protective designation as a “wild and scenic river”, the Lower Farmington River and Salmon Brook could receive as much as $100,000 in funding from the federal government to assist volunteers and officials with conservation efforts.

“This bill will protect the beauty, ecological diversity, and recreational opportunities on Connecticut’s treasured Farmington River,” said Murphy. “There are very few stretches of river anywhere in the country where you’re going to find the natural beauty, economic benefits, and history all in one place. That’s why preserving the river is important to Connecticut and will help keep our state beautiful for generations to come.” … Continue Reading

Satan’s Kingdom, LLC Owner Discusses Housing Plan but Says Conservation is Possible Under the Right Conditions

The housing plan Allan Borghesi has discussed with the town. This, however, is not part of an official application.

The housing plan Allan Borghesi has discussed with the town. This, however, is not part of an official application.

While developer Allan Borghesi moved a step closer Wednesday toward a plan for a small housing development on Satan’s Kingdom, LLC property along Route 44 in Canton, he also said conservation was still a possibility if a plan involved timeliness, guaranteed funding and the right price.

The comments came during and after a “pre-application review” at the Canton Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Wednesday night.

Borghesi informally presented a concept for a 9-home subdivision on a portion of the 39 Canton acres owned by Satan’s Kingdom, LLC, Most of the homes would be along a 600-foot access road near Route 44 and one on top of the ridgeline further back would utilize a long driveway where a partial dirt road exists now. Approximately 15 acres in the rear would be conserved, he said. … Continue Reading

Crews Recover Body from Vehicle in Farmington River

Crews recover a body from a vehicle in the Farmington River Wednesday.  Photo by John Fitts

Crews recover a body from a vehicle in the Farmington River Wednesday.
Photo by John Fitts

State Police have confirmed that one person is dead following an incident in Barkhamsted in which a car plunged into the Farmington River on Wednesday afternoon.

Volunteer firefighters and numerous crews from around the area, along with state police, responded to West River Road shortly after 1 p.m. Wednesday, where a car had gone down a short, but steep embankment into the river.

Crews spent a long time at the scene, accessing the car and eventually pulling a covered body from the car.

West River Road was slated to be closed for some time.

State Trooper Kelly Grant confirmed that there was a fatality in the incident. According to Fox Connecticut and other news sources, the deceased was identified Kenneth Gibb, 46, of Barkhamsted. … Continue Reading

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