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Residents Concerned About Future Of Two Properties
State Exploring What To Do With Cedar Ridge


July 17, 2010 |By AMANDA FALCONE, afalcone@courant.com


Now that a state-owned psychiatric facility has been closed and developers have expressed interest in building on Cedar Mountain, residents of both Newington and Wethersfield are worried what plans might lie ahead for the two properties.
They like their neighborhood. They enjoy hiking on the mountain and appreciate the view from the top. They don't want the land to be developed, and wonder what will happen to the psychiatric facility.


"If they just left it to rot, it would be typical of the state," said Gayle Raducha of Wethersfield.
The state Department of Public Works assumed control July 1 of the now-vacant Cedar Ridge, the facility on Russell Road in Newington that housed the psychiatric division of Cedarcrest Hospital.
The state is exploring what to do with the facility
, including using it as the new location of the state Department of Information Technology's data center, said Kevin Kopetz, managing attorney for the public works department.
Raducha supports moving the data center from East Hartford to Cedar Ridge. The state owns the property and should use it, she said, not sell it.
But her neighbor, Claudia Longmore, had a different view. It would take too much work to move the data center into such an old building, Longmore said. Instead, she suggested that the state use the facility as a hospice or as a facility for women veterans.
The state Office of Policy and Management has said that closing Cedar Ridge would help the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services deal with a declining number of employees due to the state's retirement incentive program.
Over the past few months, the mental health agency has transferred some of Cedar Ridge's 90 patients and nearly 300 employees to other state facilities. Other patients returned to the community.
Near Cedar Ridge is Cedar Mountain, which consists of about 380 acres. Like the psychiatric facility, the land is near the Newington-Wethersfield town line. Local residents want it preserved as open space.
In 2009, a developer, Toll Bros. Inc., asked for a zoning change for 28 acres on Cedar Mountain, but eventually withdrew the request. Today, neighbors worry that the company still wants to build, and they speculate that Tilcon Connecticut Inc. might want to develop another 70 acres.
Anyone looking to build would level the land and the mountain would be gone, Raducha said, adding that she fears blasting would be involved.

"I'd like for my house to have all four walls and a foundation," Raducha said, noting that she is also concerned about wildlife in the area.
Tilcon could not be reached for comment, but Newington Town Planner Edmund Meehan said the town has not seen any development plans for the Cedar Mountain property. The only application is from Guilford-based Marlowe Forest Productsfor a timber harvesting plan, he said. Marlowe wants to do selective tree cutting on 54 of the 72.8 acres, and Meehan said that means removing approximately 10 trees per acre. The town's inland wetlands commission is expected to discuss the application at its July 20 meeting.
Meehan says he can't control what happens to Cedar Ridge because it is owned by the state, but he says town officials would have a say when it comes to any development proposals for Cedar Mountain. A recently revised plan of conservation and development states that the town's goal is to protect as much of the ridgeline as possible, Meehan said.
Wethersfield Town Planner Peter Gillespie says he is mindful of the area near the Newington-Wethersfield town boundary, and he has had several conversations with both concerned residents and Newington town officials about the properties, specifically Cedar Mountain.
"That whole area probably needs to be looked at comprehensively," he said.