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Town to survey residents about Terre Haute's use
B.J. O'Brien, Staff Reporter
As appeared in the Bethel Beacon, August 9, 2002

The town is seeking proposals for surveys on the Terre Haute property to determine what should be done with the property.

"We need to look at our options and manage the space as best as we can for the town," said First Selectwoman Judith Novachek

The town-owned property, which straddles the Bethel-Danbury border, covers 654 acres. The Francis J. Clarke Industrial Park covers 196 acres of the property. Another 250 acres in Bethel is zoned R-80, which means one house could be allowed for every two acres. That land is currently open. In addition, the property includes 208 open acres in Danbury, which recently decided that no golf courses may be built on that land.

Selectman Robert Legnard said it is important to survey the land so that the town knows what it has.

"We have an obligation to use that property for the people of Bethel," he said.

The members of the Board of Selectmen said they would also like to form a committee to look into what the best use of the property would be.

Mrs. Novachek noted that people use the property for a variety of activities, including hiking, camping, archery and swimming. That, she said, might make the decision to do anything with the property a difficult one.

We are too emotionally attached to it," Mrs. Novachek said.

Mr. Legnard said he is in favor of doing a survey and finding out what the property would be best suited for.

"This is a way of putting some asset we have to work," he said. "It's something that intelligently should be looked at."

Mrs. Novachek believes that having a survey of the property conducted is the right thing to do.

"If you don't have qualified personnel on board, you have to spend money to make the right decision," she said. "It's better than guessing at a decision on your own," Mr. Legnard added.

Mrs. Novachek noted that when the town bought the property in 1979, it was intended for recreation and development as well as other uses. "I just think that we have to have a multitude of uses," she said.

It was also noted that one of the decisions could be to sell the property and purchase other land.

The Preservation Advocates for Terre Haute would like to see the land remain open so that it can continue to be a home for wildlife.

In an earlier interview, Bethel resident Ellen Rosenberg, who is a member of PATH, said the land would not be suitable for a golf course because it has steep slopes, vernal pools and streams. She pointed out that PATH would like to get a conservation easement, which would limit the type of development that could be done there.

Bethel Planning and Zoning Officer Betty Brosius has said the property in Bethel would be better suited for a golf course because that land is more level. She also noted that a golf course, public parks, recreational facilities and playgrounds could be constructed on Bethel's portion of the property as a special-permit use.

Bethel residents voted down a proposal for a municipal golf course two years ago.