Toll Brothers withdraws zone change for Cedar Mountain development
New Britain Herald
NEWINGTON — Toll Brothers has retreated from Cedar Mountain for now but nearby residents intent on preserving the mountain as open space know the developer will likely be back.
No official reason was given but the developer has withdrawn the application.
About two dozen people showed up this week to urge the Conservation Commission to focus on protecting the mountain from development. Chairman Philip Block said the commission has supported a past effort for the town to buy the mountain and would do so again.
Toll Brothers had petitioned the Town Plan and Zoning Commission for a zone change from commercial to residential on a 28.5-acre parcel on the north side of East Cedar Street. The developer had proposed a 113-unit housing development, similar to the company’s Newington Ridge development on the old Hartford Drive-in site on the Berlin Turnpike.
About 100 people turned out at an Oct. 14 TPZ public hearing to protest the zone change. Toll Brothers withdrew the petition Monday, but at the Tuesday Conservation Commission meeting a smaller group showed up to enlist the commission to advise the TPZ to preserve the mountain.
Although the land is privately owned by Marcap Co. LLC, many people said they enjoy hiking there. The Connecticut Humane Society had also come out against the zone change. The Society’s property on Russell Road abuts the East Cedar Street parcel.
“A lot of residents feel this should be an area that should be conserved, and we ask you to put your consideration toward that,” said Bernadette Conway, to some applause from the audience.
Block noted that he was sympathetic to their concerns, but that the commission is limited to protecting wetlands and the mountain parcel is valuable, privately owned property. If the parcel can’t be preserved as open space, it might at least be preferable to have development that would preserve the vista, as the Toll Brothers representatives had promised to do.
He said there had been an effort by the town in recent years to buy the property, partially using state grant money, but there wasn’t enough money available. The commission endorsed that effort and would endorse any new effort if well-planned and economically feasible.
“If you would like to put together a project to raise the money to buy it, then God bless you,” he said. “I’ve used the term ‘creeping urbanization’ in the past. I applaud you coming out, it’s the first time we have had a substantial audience of people who don’t have an application before us.”
Conway said the burgeoning preservation movement is looking into obtaining state money to buy the parcel.
Maureen Klett said she believes, given a few more weeks to get organized, people in the community will overwhelmingly come out in support of the town buying the land. Klett is a Democratic candidate for the Town Council. She urged people to show up and raise the issue at Tuesday’s Town Council meeting.
Anyone seeking to get involved in the preservation effort may call Conway at (860) 666-9391 or Carol Wojtowicz at (860) 543-0759. There is also a Facebook page called Save Cedar Mountain.