Council has plans for ex-Town Hall site

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
Dec. 15, 2007

NORTH BRANFORD — The town is moving forward with plans to redevelop the old Town Hall site and relocate Wall baseball field, in an effort to improve the tax base and create centrally located park space.

Town Council members agreed at a meeting this week that they want the five-acre former Town Hall location on Foxon Road to become a commercial development, not to be used for a mix of residential and commercial property. They also said they would prefer to preserve the open space in front of the building, but would not make that a condition for developers.

The town offices moved from the site near the intersection of routes 80 and 139 more than four years ago, and Town Manager Karl Kilduff said Wednesday that officials are working to complete environmental and wetlands evaluations on the property. After that, his office will ask for development proposals from private companies interested in buying the land.

Kilduff said that, rather than “just putting a ‘For Sale’ sign on the property,” Town Council members said they would like to have more control over what kind of business goes on the site.

He added that he has had some conversations with developers about the site, and thinks it would be most appropriate for a number of smaller stores with midrange retail or commercial services, rather than a big-box store.

Mayor Michael Doody said Wednesday he thinks a pharmacy or medical complex could be successful in that location and would benefit the community.

“That would be a home run for the town,” Doody said. “A greater percentage of our town is residential and you need that commercial tax base to ease the residential taxes, so that’s why the town is very serious about economic development.”

Kilduff agreed, saying that one of the goals with the redevelopment of the former Town Hall site is to return a municipally owned property to taxable status.

“North Branford does not have an ample supply of commercial property, so the opportunity to take something that was off the tax rolls and put it back on the tax rolls, and it’s not necessarily a residentially zoned property, provides us with a unique opportunity,” he said.

With the redevelopment of the land, Wall Field, which is also on the Town Hall site at 1599 Foxon Road, will have to move. The baseball diamond with concession stand is primarily used for Little League games, and it will be affected by the state’s planned widening of Route 80 in the next few years.

The town owns 84 acres behind the Police Department on Forest Road that it has targeted as the future home of the baseball field.

Kilduff said that initial estimates for the project put the price tag at about $1.3 million, but he is hoping to cover much of that cost with grants or donated services. A $400,000 grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection will go toward the project, and officials also plan to apply for a Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant from the State Bond Commission.

The council’s long-term plans for the Forest Road land include other playing fields, communal green space, a stage for the town’s summer concert series and walking trails.

“The broader vision starts to build a nice center point on that property for passive and active recreation,” Kilduff said. “North Branford doesn’t have that traditional New England Green fronted by a white church. … This creates the opportunity to have a Green, but perhaps not in the traditional New England sense.”

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