Friday, March 19, 2010

Luxury Home Builder Interested in Boardman Lane Property, and So Is The Army

The luxury home builder Toll Brothers has expressed an interest in purchasing the 88 acres on Boardman Lane formerly chosen by the Army Corps of Engineers for their military base. They have entered into discussions with the landowner, and presented preliminary plans to city officials, according to City Planner Bill Warner.

The land is currently zoned for Interstate Trade, and would have to be re-zoned to allow a housing development. Warner said to me that both he and Mayor Giuliano told Toll Brothers that they would need to obtain the support of the Westfield Residents Association (WRA) before the city would consider re-zoning. Toll Brothers has not contacted the WRA.

In July of 2008, the Army announced that they had selected this parcel to build an Army Reserve Training Facility. Following community outrage, especially on the part of the WRA, the army backed away from Boardman Lane. One of the concerns of neighbors was the effect of a large training facility on wetlands. To stop development of the Boardman Lane property, the city offered to the Army the little-used Cucia Park, which is surrounded by I91 and industrial land, less than half a mile from the Boardman Lane property. The Army has selected a contractor to build the base on the Cucia Park site.

Ironically, the Boardman Lane parcel is being looked at again by the Army, according to Warner. This time, however, their goal is to perserve it for wetlands protection and habitat enhancement. The construction plans for the facility in Cucia Park require a permit for the destruction of a small amount of wetlands, and the Corps of Engineers environmental division has insisted that the Army mitigate nearby wetlands in order to obtain the necessary 404 permit.

The Boardman Lane property contains wetlands in the same local watershed as Cucia Park, and is still for sale. These features make it an ideal site for mitigation.

Diane McCartin, the project manager for the Reserve Training Facility, confirmed that the Army is talking with the land ownership group, represented by Pedro Wasmer, "We are both interested in preserving the land as much as possible." McCartin said that if the Army bought the land, it remained to be determined whether the Army would retain ownership of the land for the long term, or turn it over to a separate agency of the government or to a private land preservation organization.

She indicated that the land would be permanently protected, with deed restrictions that would not only prohibit development, but would also require ten years of monitoring, removal of invasive species, and enhancement and maintenance of habitat for the Eastern Box turtle.
Disclosure: I am vice-chair of the WRA executive committee.


Anonymous said...

The city needs to think twice about approving MORE housing properties on this side of town. The school district is in the painful process of redistricting. This property is located in Moody School district which is severly overcrowded. The redistricting brings their building capacity just under 100%. The idea of incoming tax dollars is great, but you have to look at all other aspects that will be affected. The city fights the BOE every year on funding. If you can't fund it, don't build it!

JAM said...

I completely agree! In addition to the school issue, though, don't forget why Boardman Lane was unacceptable as a building site for the Army. The wetlands on this property have been deemed the 5th most important wetlands (out of 107) in Middletown by the 1981 Purcell In-Depth Survey. More than half of the 88 acres have been classified as wetlands or within a flood plain. Furthermore, the Army has the opportunity to mitigate wetlands in the same system it is altering; this is EXACTLY how and why mitigation was intended to work, and we should not pass on the opportunity to do it right. Toll Brothers needs to look elsewhere in town, and we all need to be sure that ANY new housing makes sense for our new school districting.

Anonymous said...

Stop building on every piece of land.
Lease it to a farmer.

Anonymous said...

Let them build the Housing. The land just sits there and rots.

Anonymous said...

Ain't it great when regulation things go your way? Agreeing is so much nicer than disagreeing. The City is busy promoting its golf-course adventure elsewhere but can they ignore the Westfield prospect of increased property taxes? A predictable grown-up, over 55 childless housing proposal seems a natural! Too bad all those condo owners went rogue, moved actual families into one bed room units and fouled up the schools...

Vijay Pinch said...

I would encourage Toll Brothers to explore the possibility of building high-quality housing in the downtown and core neighborhoods, rather than tear up a nice wetlands and old farmland on the edge of town. There is plenty of open space -- underutilized parking lots etc. -- that could be put to much better use. Middletown routinely loses young professionals to places like New Haven (I know several who used to live here, and just spoke to another one last week who is contemplating leaving), where there is more of a walkable, bike-able "new urban" feel. For architectural examples, see the Armory Court on Orange Street near (the wonderful) East Rock Park in New Haven, or even the Court Street Apartments right here in Middletown (though the apartments in the latter could hardly be called "luxury", nevertheless the overall space has a great feel). Bottom line: Middletown doesn't need more remote, cul-de-sac neighborhoods full of "luxury" mansions; it could use some high-quality downtown condos and apartments.

Anonymous said...

Where would the kids, living in the lap of luxury, in the "downtown and core neighborhoods" be going to school?

ARLJ said...

I am not sure when the WRA ( Westfield Redevelopment Association) became a governing body that dictates the use of private/city land but certainly feel a grave injustice to all residents of the City of Middletown to add an additional faction of approval to any developer/contractor or prospective taxpayer.

This could be viewed as a sign of abuse of authority to elevate the power of office for personal gains?

Is it so hard to represent all with integrity and do what’s right for all not any one individual and or group?

Gettysburg Address

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
“Abraham Lincoln"

Anonymous said...

City defers to Westfield group a comm0n theme so what is the surprise here and who exactly does live in Westfield tha is so important?

We did not want to lose non-residental land when the Army was in Town , but, now if WRA says it okay the City will move forward.

Lets ask Toll Bros if they want to build a golf course with housing in Marmoas

WRA member said...


I'm sorry, I fail to see your point...are you suggesting that the Boardman Lane property holds significance equal to Gettysburg? Or are you reminding us all that "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth"? I'm going to assume that you were sarcastically poking fun at the Westfield RESIDENTS Assocation, and I'd like to politely suggest that said organization is doing exactly what President Lincoln had in mind: we're a motivated group of Westfield citizens volunteering our personal time and energy to watch out for the interests of the 16,000+ residents of Westfield. The WRA is more than 25 years old, and members regularly attend most city meetings each month.

Feel free to come to a quarterly meeting sometime and check it out for yourself.

Gordon said...

To ARLJ==As of 3-21-2010 at 11:00 P.M. you can officially disregard the last sentence of the Gettysburg Address.

Vijay Pinch said...

To 3:15 anonymous:

I'll assume you're asking the question in good faith.

Okay okay, big assumption. I'll ignore the tone and answer the question anyway.

Much depends on the fate of the redistricting proposal (probably it was to draw attention back to the proposal, and the contentious politics swirling around it, that the question was penned). Assuming the proposal survives, the lucky elementary-age children would be eligible to attend either Commodore Macdonough, Farm Hill, or Bielefield, depending on the neighborhood in which their high-quality townhouse, condo, or apartment happened to be built. You can check out the map of the proposal created by Izzi Greenberg in an earlier post. Other educational options include IDS, St. Mary's, St. John's, the Roadside Academy, and probably a half dozen other schools of various sorts of which I'm unaware. And for those intrepid or foolhardy souls who prefer an alternative approach to their children's education, there are a host of downtown resources to draw upon, including the Green Street Arts Center, the Green School Co-op, Wesleyan Potters, Oddfellows Playhouse (and summer circus), KidCity, Russell Library, tons of stuff going on at Wesleyan and on Main Street, the Buttonwood Tree, IConn Fencing in the Remington Rand building, Vinnie's Jump & Jive, the Middlesex County Historical Society, the Connecticut River, the Jonah Center for Earth and Art -- the list goes on and on. Let's not forget ArtFarm, even though it's not technically downtown it is very accessible -- and its summertime Shakespeare is to die for. I'm sure I'm leaving important groups and organizations off this list, for which apologies in advance. (I should note that most of these resources can be combined with schooling of the more traditional sort. The main exception is the Green School Co-op, which is for that increasingly less uncommon breed known as "home-schoolers" [though, as the list above makes clear, home is only one of the settings for the education of these children]. In fact, if the kid is really creative, charismatic, and resourceful, s/he can sometimes attend both the local public school and the Green School Co-op -- though s/he would want to keep it below the radar of the school board.)

The takeaway point is that Middletown is full of fun, safe, and intelligent educational options for kids. And generally the community is very open-minded and accepting of all types.

Since an earlier poster on this thread has seen fit to quote a great North American, let me follow suit.

"bigotry is the disease of ignorance, of morbid minds; enthusiasm of the free and buoyant. education & free discussion are the antidotes of both."

[Thomas Jefferson to William Plumber, 21 July 1816.]
To read more:

Vijay Pinch said...

Correction: The quote was from Th. Jefferson to John Adams, 1 August 1816. Here's the letter facsimile, courtesy of the Library of Congress (the actual quote is on page two):

ARLJ said...

In a response to the confusion of the reader, my comments were in regards to the spirit of President Lincolns quote " a government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth".

Please help me along here last I checked the City of Middletown is approximatley 47 square miles give or take and of that Westfield section shares a large section divided into thirds with the South Farms District being the largest at 25 square miles.

So my understanding of President Lincolns intent was for representation of all, not for one group who see fit that nothing encroaches their rights and dumps them on another, Government is to act on the rights of all. Your enthusiastic group should be commended for its interest in the community but should not be placed on a pedastal above the rest of the citizens of the City of Middletown.

I hope this clears up any confusion that I may have displayed in my humble opinion.


Anthony R. Lancia, Jr.

Anonymous said...

We should be welcoming Toll Brothers with open arms to our City. Toll Brothers builds outstanding communities and quality homes that would surely enhance our community. Furthermore, Toll Brothers proposal was actually cluster the development with a lot of land to be protected in preservation. My understanding was they were working with the town to protect environmentally and visually sensitive areas. In fact Toll Brothers was not going to distrurb any wetlands or sensitive areas. They have an excellent reputation for land preservation and quality communites.

Also, their Town House developments actually yield very few school age children. Leaving the land fully unimproved just takes away from a much needed tax revenue source. I beg everyone to welcome such a quality organization to our town. Their Plans would protect a large portion of the property, while provinding much needed new revenue for our struggling town.

Anonymous said...

If schools were equally excellent and convenient to all inhabitants, this redistricting proposal would not be an issue. The idea of residing in a neighborhood on account of the excellent school, especially in a small town like Middletown, seems not to have been the intention of Public School. The reality of, for example, poor teachers or administrators, who are entrenched until retirement or death, in a town's school system can create a very poor learning environment. The schools are not equally excellent for a variety of reasons including overcrowding.

Anonymous said...

Ha,ha,regarding Toll Brothers,
"Also, their Town House developments actually yield very few school age children."

What kind of children do Town House developments yield? Babies who stay forever young or adults who spring fully formed from the foreheads of their parents? Skipping that pesky in-between stage could be a useful heretofore unknown benefit for prospective Town House owners!

Anonymous said...

Just heard a report from a credible source, that:

...a notice received from the Corp of Engineers at 4:00 today...

"The mitigation site for the impacted wetlands will be located on 52 acres on Boardman Lane. Under the mitigation requirements, the former industrially-zoned property will be permanently protected against development."