Council Urged to Acquire Cedar Crest Property
NEWINGTON - An 80.8-acre property at Cedar Crest has drawn some attention and calls for acquisition from a group of Newington residents, but it is unlikely that the town will have a chance to stake a claim on the parcel anytime soon, Director of Economic Development Andy Brecher said.
Residents that sat through the seemingly endless Toll Brothers development proposal meetings at the Conservation Commission have turned up at recent council sessions to urge elected officials to attempt to obtain the property--formerly the site of Cedar Crest Hospital--from the state, possibly for use as open space.
“We have a unique opportunity here,” said Newington resident Gayle Redrako during the public comment segment of the Sept. 10 Council meeting. “What a legacy we can leave here, if we preserve the site from further development. It should be up to the town to decide how it can be used.”
Newington resident Gary Bowls, another regular attendee of the Toll Brothers meetings, suggested that the town attempt to purchase the property from the state for the price of one dollar.
The process, however, is not that simple, Brecher said.
Before the state can sell the property, it has to post on the DAS Surplus Property Division’s Environmental Monitor, where information can be reviewed and commented on, Brecher said in a memo sent to Town Manager John Salomone and read through at the Sept. 24 Council meeting.
“Based on the nature of those comments, OPM and DAS will decide whether or not to proceed,” Brecher said. “If they do, it will proceed to appraisal.”
The state typically brings in multiple appraisal firms to come up with tentative prices and averages them into an offer. At this point, the town will have an opportunity to purchase the property, but whether or not it wants to will depend on the cost of cleaning it, Brecher said.
“You could get killed in the cleanup, but the property can be worth nothing,” said Councilor Jay Bottalico.
Whether or not the state agrees to clear the property of contamination before selling it depends on how expensive the job will be--something that has yet to be determined, Brecher said. The buyer may even be pinned with the cleanup, depending on how buyer/seller negotiations go, he said.
“This property is contaminated,” Brecher said. “Nobody knows the extent, and no remediation plan exists or is understood, so anyone who purchases this property has a big question mark as to what the cost will be. It’s unlikely that s sale will occur quickly or easily.”
Newington will have first dibs on the property once a price is set, Brecker said. After 60 days, other buyers will have the opportunity to respond.
“It is possible that the town can get back into the game at any point during those steps,” Salomone said during the meeting.
The Cedar Crest property was the site of a tuberculosis hospital from the 1920s until the 1950s, when it became a psychiatric facility. It closed two years ago, when the legislature told the Department of Economic and Community Development to get rid of it. The state tried unsuccessfully to put it out for bid last year.