Plans to renovate Branchville move ahead
As the town looks to redevelop the area around the Branchville Train Station to drive new businesses and housing outside of Ridgefield’s downtown, the question remains of how it plans to deal with the additional wastewater that comes with more people.
Voters approved an upgrade to the town’s sewer treatment plant on South Street at the town meeting in May, but the $48-million project does not include plans to pump additional waste up from Branchville.
And so First Selectman Rudy Marconi is hoping the town’s neighbors in Redding will handle the additional sewage.
“In one of Rudy’s recent conversations with the first selectwoman of Redding, she indicated that there might be a way forward with regards to wastewater,” said Cameron Carcelen of the Ridgefield Economic and Community Development Commission.
Julia Pemberton, Redding’s first selectman, did not respond to a request for an interview for this article.
Amy Atamian, the current chair of the Redding Water Pollution Control Authority, said she has not received a formal request from the town of Ridgefield to use the Georgetown plant to process wastewater from Branchville.
The plant has additional capacity, but it may already be spoken for.
“The plant was built out mainly for the redevelopment of the Gilbert and Bennett property,” said Atamian.
There were plans to redevelop the property, the old wire mill in the Redding section of Georgetown, in the mid-2000’s, she explained, but the project fell through amid the recession. The town of Redding has since entered foreclosure litigation over the property, and an appeal is ongoing.
The redevelopment plan would add a new traffic light at the intersection of Route 7 and Portland Avenue, the south entrance to the Branchville station, and replace the Portland Avenue bridge over the Norwalk River. The Depot Road bridge, which crosses the Norwalk River at the north entrance to the train station, would likely be closed, or repurposed as a pedestrian bridge. The plan would also add sidewalks to increase walkability.
Carcelen said the Portland Avenue bridge construction is supposed to start in 2022.
“It’s really beginning to become more concrete,” she said, noting that the town plans to submit applications to the planning and zoning office “further along in the fall.”
Proponents of the plan also see Branchville as a way to add housing and business without straining town roads and the village center.
“Here in Ridgefield, we need to find a way to grow that doesn’t add substantial density or overload our infrastructure,” said Dave Goldenberg, chairman of the town Affordable Housing Committee. “Branchville is a perfect opportunity to do this.”
Goldenberg envisions smaller rental properties in Branchville, which would provide housing for older and younger residents within walking distance of the train station. He said the housing would be built by private developers, not a public housing authority. The benefit to the town would be increased tax revenue from renters who likely won’t add children to the district’s schools.
“It would help us get some of the specific types of housing we need, in a way that does not add the kind of scattershot density we’ve been seeing under 8-30g — or overburden our roads,” he added.
Members of the ECDC seemed enthused by the prospect of a deal between the two towns on sewage.
“It was encouraging to see that things were moving forward,” said Carcelen.
“That would be fantastic if they could come to a deal,” said ECDC member Gus Ryer.