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01/21/2015

Survey Grant Awarded in Litchfield

Survey Grant Awarded in Litchfield

LITCHFIELD - The Greater Litchfield Preservation Trust has announced the award of a survey grant for the purpose of documenting 200 historic buildings, 50 years old or more, in the northeast quadrant of the Town of Litchfield.

The survey area encompasses all structures beginning with the Chestnut Hills and Fern Avenue north to the Torrington line, then east to Naugatuck River, with the documentation of East Litchfield’s village history a major focus.

The project, which was scheduled to begin in late September, will document this last, but important, area of town and its historic buildings. The trust, with grants from the state Historic Preservation Office, surveyed Northfield, Bantam/Milton and Litchfield in themid-1980s. This project will complete a resource that has been widely used by residents inrest of the town for the last 30 years.

Anyone with information, photos, family records related to the history of buildings located east of the Bantam River between Northfield and the Torrington line should contact Eileen Schmidt at east.litchfield@gmail.com or 860-482-7227.

Funding for the project is provided by the Community Investment Act and is administered by Connecticut’s Department of Economic and Community Development and the State Historic Preservation Office.

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01/21/2015

Seymour looks to rekindle interest in Housatonic site

Seymour looks to rekindle interest in Housatonic site

Former Housatonic Wire Co. property. Register file photo
By Jean Falbo-Sosnovich, New Haven Register

,,,according to property owner, Alex Budzinski, who told the Economic Development Commission Tuesday that a developer expressed interest in building some 100 housing units at the vacant corner at 109 River St., but was told the town didn’t want the property developed solely for residential use.

Budzinski said Economic Development Director Fred A. Messore basically told the developer ‘no,’ when he said he was looking to build a residential project at the site. At that, the developer, who Messore following the meeting identified as Copperline Partners, based in Stramford, went packing.

“We had an interested party, with a $20-$25 million residential project, but he was told the town wanted mixed-use only,” Budzinksi said.

Budzinski said he did not attend the March 2014 meeting, but his Realtor, Fred Frassinelli did, meeting with Messore, the developer and Town Planner Bob Looker.

Members of the EDC said this was the first time hearing that the developer was interested in that parcel, and when they asked Budzinski who basically told him ‘no’ to an all-residential project, Budzinski said it was Messore.

“I never said ‘no’ to him outright,” Messore told the commission. “The interested party wanted to do a residential complex and my response was that the town would ‘prefer’ to see a mixed-use project there, which is in line with the transit-oriented district. We didn’t turn anyone away.”

EDC member Alex Danka said there’s a big difference between hearing the word ‘no’ to the word ‘prefer,’ and said if the developer was truly interested in the parcel, he would’ve pursued town officials, or asked to meet with the EDC, to further discuss his intentions.

But that never happened, and the developer ended up seeking a site in Stratford. But that deal never materialized either, so EDC Chairman Jon Szuch suggested Budzinski make contact with the developer and ask him to sit down with First Selectman Kurt Miller and Messore, and then the EDC, to discuss potential tax incentives, and possibly consider a development with first-floor retail, with residential units on top, with a parking garage and a roof-top terrace.

Szuch said the potential for the site is great, especially with the newly built $6 million fish bypass channel across the way on the Naugatuck River, and future home to the town’s first greenway trail, not to mention the easy access to three major highways.

“If this can be reactivated, let’s do it,” Szuch said. “We’d like to sit down with the developer and have something to discuss that has merit. ... We’re all reasonable people willing to listen, ask the developer to come back and we’d be more than willing and happy to have a discussion with him.”

Budzinski said the” misunderstanding” was unfortunate and he hopes to work with the town moving forward to get the site sold, developed and back on the town’s tax rolls. He said he doesn’t want the site to end up vacant for years on end like Tri-Town Plaza, where the former Ames and Adams buildings still sit vacant.

“We’ve got a diamond in the rough there, so let’s put our heads together and get this thing moving,” Budzinski said.

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01/21/2015

Waterbury Board of Aldermen postponed a $19.5 million bond vote

City bond vote postponed
Aldermen aim to examine details of downtown project
BY PENELOPE OVERTON REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN


WATERBURY — The Board of Aldermen postponed a $19.5 million bond vote on a downtown road project Tuesday to give the city time to clarify the real purpose of the project.

The Waterbury Active Transportation and Economic Project, or what's being called WATER for short, might have started as a dream to lengthen the Naugatuck River Greenway trail, but that's not what it is anymore.

The U.S. Department of Transportation chose not to fund the trail part of the city's application for federal funding, city officials told aldermen and residents at a board meeting Tuesday.

But what's left is still a "game changer," said mayoral adviser Kevin M. DelGobbo. It would rebuild Freight and Jackson streets, improve Meadow Street and build a pedestrian bridge from the train station to Library Park.

For an investment of $5.1 million, Waterbury would get a $14.4 million federal grant that will unlock the development potential of a 60-acre swath of the long neglected Freight Street area, project boosters said.

If the Board of Aldermen were to reject the bond proposal, Waterbury would never get another federal transportation again, said project official Salvatore Porzio. No one has ever turned this kind of grant down.

Board President Paul K. Pernerewski Jr. declared at the outset of the meeting that there would be no vote Tuesday, giving the public, as well as aldermen, a chance to mull over the proposal details.

He said he hopes to call a special meeting Monday to hold a vote.

It was unclear whether the bond proposal would have had the 10 votes needed to pass Tuesday. Republicans wanted to know the city's plans for extending the greenway, and if the road work stood alone without it.

They also voiced concerns about the tax impact of the project.

City officials had been reluctant to disclose the impact before, saying that it was unlikely the city would ever have to pay for its entire $5.1 million share because the state would probably step up to cover it.

But on Tuesday, some city officials said the city might not want a state assist for the city share, but would rather have it to help build, perhaps, the second phase of the greenway, if only to avoid costly delays.

If the city were to borrow the full $5.1 million, the average city taxpayer, who owns a home appraised at $150,000, would pay about $10 a year in taxes to cover the $389,000 annual debt service payment.

But Michael LeBlanc, city finance director, said the projected benefits of the project, such as increased property values and the increase in tax-paying businesses along Freight, would likely more than make up for that.
More Stories About: Waterbury, Greater Waterbury, Naugatuck River Greenway, Waterbury Active Transportation and Economic Resurgence

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01/21/2015

Greenway stumbles over artifacts

Greenway stumbles over artifacts

BY PENELOPE OVERTON REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

WATERBURY — An archaeologist has unearthed in a Naugatuck River Greenway park a handful of stone shards and a piece of a clay pipe dating back before Europeans settled here.

This discovery, made last fall, is one of two unexpected hurdles, along with a failing retaining wall, the city must resolve before moving ahead with plans to build a riverfront trail from Naugatuck to Eagle Street.

The project is already running six months behind its original plan for a fall 2015 groundbreaking, but project officials are confident they will resolve the artifact issue without much additional delay or cost.

The artifacts could not be tied to a particular date or tribe, said project manager Salvatore Porzio. At this time, the archaeologist can only say the shards and pipe date back to before European contact.

The city's consultant for the project, RBA Group, will use one of its staff archaeologists to conduct a more thorough dig of the artifact area as soon as the ground thaws to see if there is anything else to be found.

But additional finds would pose no threat to the completion of the trail, said RBA's urban planning director, Jackson Wandres. The artifacts were found in the woods of the park, not on the trail path, he said.

If more was found, the city could add an interpretative sign somewhere in the park to educate the public about the area's pre-contact history, said Wandres. It can only add to the public's enjoyment of the park, he said.

The cost of this next archaeological dig is no more than $20,000.

The other outstanding issue that has contributed to a delay in building the first leg of what the city hopes will be a 7.7 mile city trail is who will pay for the repair of a crumbling retaining wall on South Main Street.

The state Department of Transportation owns the retaining wall, but it could take a long time for the state agency to add that $1 million repair to its long list of road maintenance projects.

Mayor Neil M. O'Leary met with James P. Redeker, the commissioner of the state transportation agency, last week to ask him to make the repair a top priority. As of Tuesday, the city had no official response. 

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01/21/2015

DEEP Commissioner Klee praises Waterbury

Official praises Waterbury for redeveloping brownfields - By Andrew Larson/Republican-American

A state commissioner applauded the city’s efforts to remediate and redevelop brownfields, calling its success an example for cities throughout the state to follow.

Rob Klee, commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, toured former brownfield sites in the East End on Thursday.

"Waterbury has done a great job of figuring it out," Klee said.

State Rep. Selim Noujaim, R-74th District, gave Klee and two other DEEP officials a tour the Eastside Memorial Funeral Home and Waterbury Senior Center, on the once heavily contaminated site of Mattatuck Manufacturing Co., which closed in the 1980s and was demolished in 2002.

Noujaim secured $4 million in state grants for the cleanup, which was overseen by Waterbury Development Corp.

"We did not want to leave an eyesore in the city," Noujaim said.

The site, near the intersection of Southmayd Road and East Main Street, is now home to a lively Waterbury Senior Center, a Saint Mary’s Hospital outpatient center and a large funeral home that’s laid out like a hotel.

Klee also visited Fairlawn Park, which was renovated in 2007 and helped revitalize a neighborhood and reduced crime. Klee was so impressed he said he’d ask the city to host a No Child Left Inside event there.

The group also toured Chase School, where Noujaim hopes to "find some money for environmental enhancements."

The city has cleaned up other contaminated sites, including Waterbury Industrial Commons on Thomaston Avenue, which it’s developing into a manufacturing center.

Noujaim said the city’s success lies in its aggressive approach to remediation.

"Other cities have not been quite as proactive, quite honestly, as the city of Waterbury and it’s a tribute to the mayor’s office, WDC, the legislative delegation and all of us," Noujaim said.

Brownfield remediation and redevelopment will be a priority for the state this year, said Dennis Schain, spokesman for the DEEP.

Redevelopment of brownfields helps preserve open space by facilitating commercial development in areas that are already built up, he said.

"It’s good for the environment, it’s good for public health and it’s good for how the land is used," Schain said. "If you can develop a property in the heart of a city, there’s infrastructure, there’s transportation and you’re saving undeveloped land elsewhere."

Noujaim expects the General Assembly to pass legislation that offers tax benefits to businesses that take on environmental projects and that "remove some of the barriers for businesses."

During lunch, Klee announced that state Sen. Joan V. Hartley, D-15th District, will join Noujaim as co-chair of the state legislature’s manufacturing caucus this year.

"The manufacturing caucus is going to be a big proponent of cleanup and redevelopment of brownfields," Noujaim said.

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01/21/2015

New Phase of Testing Planned for O'Sullivan's Island

New Phase Of Testing Planned For O’Sullivan’s Island In Derby – By Eugene Driscoll/Valley Independent Sentinel

O’Sullivan’s Island, a recreation area and popular fishing spot at the confluence of the Housatonic and Naugatuck rivers next to the Derby Greenway, will remain closed for at least the next four to five months as a new round of environmental assessments starts at the city-owned property.
The Derby Board of Aldermen closed O’Sullivan’s Island last January, after learning that a prior "removal action" by the federal Environmental Protection Agency dealt only with PCB contamination in the ground and not other pollutants.
The EPA didn’t pull a fast one on Derby. The fact that contamination was still in the ground at unknown levels was just never fully explained to the public by local officials.
The Valley Council of Governments — as of Jan. 1, 2015 known as the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments — is using about $300,000 in grants to test the soil.
The goal now is to find precisely what pollutants are in the ground, where they are, at what levels, and what has to be done to deal with it.
While the city has known generally about the contamination for generations, no one’s ever catalogued it, one of the first steps to take before cleaning it, officials said.
The city received preliminary results from soil samples in September showing there was contamination within the first six inches of soil on O’Sullivan’s Island — though at not high enough levels to threaten the public.
But the same preliminary results identified several areas of concern throughout the property where there were levels of arsenic or lead.
Further soil testing is needed at those spots, and groundwater samples need to be collected to determine whether there is any groundwater contamination, Arthur Bogen, an environmental planner working for the council of governments, told Derby officials Thursday.
Bogen made his comments at a meeting of the Derby Aldermen and the city’s O’Sullivan’s Island Committee in City Hall.
Meanwhile, the state Department of Health is finalizing a report on the soil contamination. It is still under review by various environmental agencies on the local, state and federal level.
In addition to the underground water testing, Bogen recommended that a "phase one" environmental assessment be done on the property.
The "phase one" assessment is basically a list of who used the property over the years, and how.
It must be done if the city ever hopes to qualify for state or federal grants that could be used to fund a cleanup.
"What went on there, who did what when, what were the operations, what were the kinds of concerns that have been developed, and document that," Bogen said of the assessment.
The history of O’Sullivan’s Island is diverse, to say the least. It’s not actually island at this point, but a peninsula.
It was owned by John F. O’Sullivan, a former elected official, newspaperman, and insurance agent who died in 1932. He wanted to turn the island into a public park, according to this account credited to the Evening Sentinel.
A racetrack was built there, according to the Sentinel, and car races were held. Derby High School football and baseball teams played there, and O’Sullivan rented out the property to carnivals.
A portion of the property was used as a town dump.

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01/20/2015

Update on O'Sullivan's Island

Further testing to begin at O’Sullivan’s Island in Derby - By Jean Falbo-Sosnovich/New Haven Register

The environmental firm that tested suspected contaminated soil on O’Sullivan’s Island will begin a new round of sampling, but this time on the groundwater to check for possible contamination, prompting the site to remain closed well into spring.
That’s according to Environmental Planner Arthur Bogen, who, along with Rick Dunne, executive director of the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments, and attorney Gary O’Connor, gave the Board of Aldermen and the O’Sullivan’s Island Advisory Committee an update Thursday of what’s been happening with investigation of the site over the past several months.
Bogen said HRP Associates Inc., which did soil testing last summer, will conduct groundwater testing, and a complete historic study will also be done to determine how the island had been used, and who used it, over the years, which ultimately led to discovery of PCB contamination there.
The groundwater testing and gathering of historical information is part of what Bogen is calling Phase I of the investigation, which is necessary for officials to apply for further state and/or federal funds for remediation.
O’Sullivan’s Island is not an actual island but rather a strip of land at the confluence of the Housatonic and Naugatuck rivers, and has been used for fishing, picnics and other passive recreation. It has been the site of Brownfields cleanups and PCB removal, which were used in the manufacture of plastics and insulating oil in transformers as a coolant, and banned in 1979.
The site also was former home to a Valley fire training school, where contaminants were found. Parts of the site were used as a toxic dumping ground and, in 1983, hundreds of 55-gallon chemical drums were unearthed.

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12/07/2014

Snowy Owl's back in CT: a stones throw from the Naugatuck River

Sunday, Dec. 7th, 2014
Milford snowy was at the Milford Coastal Audubon Center.
Just go to the platform behind the building.
There is a stick leaning against an informational sign and one against a bench.
Line the two up. You will be looking SW. On the sandbar on what appears to be some flotsam. Milford Point Snowy Owl continues to give fantastic looks on the main sandbar. It's very active- we actually observed it bathing a little while ago.

Snowy Owl
 

MILFORD, CT (WFSB) -Rare snowy owl spotted in Connecticut
Posted: Dec 12, 2013 5:31 PM EST Updated: Jan 09, 2014 7:47 PM EST
By Kevin HoganCONNECT

By Joseph Wenzel IV, News EditorCONNECT

Read more: http://www.wfsb.com/story/24208113/rare-snowy-owl-spotted-in-connecticut#ixzz3LJUxPp7O Bird watchers, who were armed with powerful binoculars, flocked to the Connecticut shoreline Thursday in search of the snowy white owls.

The snowy white owl is a bird more native to the Arctic Circle, not the Connecticut coast.

"They're here," said Katie Walker of Easton. "There's such an abundance this year."

Milen Bull of the Connecticut Audubon Society is an expert on snowy whites. The members of the Connecticut Audubon Society call the owls in the state being a "phenomenon."

Or an eruption that happens when a group of birds temporarily moves into an area where they're not usually seen.

"There are several theories for why they're here," Bull said. "One theory is that there's a lot of food in the Arctic and owls produced lots of young. Those young then have to go out and find food."

Bull explained that the icy tundra snowy white owls normally have a diet of lemmings. However, the lemmings have been depleted. So the birds fly here looking for food such as field mice and small rodents.

A reporter for our sister station in Springfield spotted a snowy white owl Wednesday in Springfield.

"It's a long flight," Bull said. "Think about north of the Arctic Circle these birds have come from in many cases they haven't seen humans until they get down here."

The only ones Eyewitness News spotted on Thursday were on a print by the late Roger Tory Peterson of Old Lyme. The copy donated by Connie Wood, who saw her first snowy white 20 years ago.

"The snowy owl was actually out there in the marsh the first time we saw it," Wood said. "They fly around."

Bird experts advise if you see a snowy white owl don't disturb it. They have keen eyes and ears and are always hunting for food.

The snowy white owl is only expected to be around a few more weeks.



Read more: http://www.wfsb.com/story/24208113/rare-snowy-owl-spotted-in-connecticut#ixzz3LJUgXNwQ

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12/07/2014

Northern Bobwhites at Ansonia Nature Center

Subject: [CT Birds] Northern Bobwhites (presumably released birds)

12/7/14, in Ansonia, at the Ansonia Nature Center: a flock of eight Northern
Bobwhite. Seen feeding on the ground along the trails below the nature
center building between the building and the pond. I am aware of a nearby
resident who has released members of this species in this area before in an
effort to reestablish a "wild" population of Bobwhite in CT. Although the
chances of success are slim, the cause is noble. Even though the birds are
released, they are beautiful to look at and interesting to observe. So, if
anyone wants to see Bobwhite in a local natural setting, this would be a
good place to look.

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12/06/2014

Seeds of the future in icons of the past

Seeds of the future in icons of the past
Hugh Bailey
Saturday, December 6, 2014
CT Post

An hour after leaving picturesque Port Jefferson, N.Y., the ferry across Long Island Sound begins its approach to the postindustrial wasteland of Bridgeport Harbor.

To one side are the empty lots and abandoned piers of the city's forgotten shipping industry. On the other is a coal-fired power plant, a relic that's the last of its kind in Connecticut, its signature red-and-white smokestack reaching high into the skyline. From every direction, by train, car or boat, this symbol of industrial days gone by is the first sign that Bridgeport is on the horizon.

Protesters over the years have called for Harbor Station's closure, and its useful days are likely limited. The future is bleak for coal plants.

But symbols are powerful things. It might not be what Bridgeport would choose, but the candy-striped smokestack is as close as the city has to an Empire State Building or Eiffel Tower. It's an image of industry, but also one of pollution and retrograde solutions.

It could be a symbol of a brighter future.

The Route 8 corridor in Connecticut, with Bridgeport at its base, is defined by its industrial past. Waterbury and Torrington, Ansonia and Thomaston, Derby and Winsted: These are towns and cities largely left out of the wealth that now characterizes Connecticut.

Their history is in manufacturing -- copper, brass, munitions, textiles, rubber and dozens of other products that Americans still need, but are now largely produced abroad. The industrial leftovers remain, hulking on the banks of rivers and crumbling on roadsides. Click here for more information.


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Naugatuck Savings Bank, Connecticut Community Foundation
Union Savings Bank, Wesson Energy, Inc., The United Illumination Company, Friends of Naugatuck River
The Platt Brothers & Company, Thomaston Savings Bank, Valley Community Foundation