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New Sandy Hook School Will Use Existing Access Road

Efforts to create a new road by acquiring a private property did not pan out, so architects present a conceptual plan of a redesigned Dickinson Drive.

Barry Svigals, managing partner at Svigals +Partners, the architectural firm for the Sandy Hook School project, speaks during a Legislative Council meeting in Newtown, Conn., on Jan. 8, 2014. Credit: Gary Jeanfaivre
Barry Svigals, managing partner at Svigals +Partners, the architectural firm for the Sandy Hook School project, speaks during a Legislative Council meeting in Newtown, Conn., on Jan. 8, 2014. Credit: Gary Jeanfaivre

Unsuccessful in its negotiations to acquire a private property for a new access road to the future Sandy Hook School, Newtown is left with only one option: reuse the existing one on Dickinson Drive.

And the town got its first glimpse of what that road could look like Wednesday night when representatives from the project’s architectural firm presented a 3-D concept video during a Legislative Council meeting. [Patch will be publishing that video in an upcoming article.]

Before the video was played, though, First Selectman Pat Llodra gave council members an update on how negotiations played out.

Negotiations fell apart Tuesday when the town was notified that the owners of 12 Riverside Road, George and Susan Oberstadt, declined through their attorney a final counter-offer from the town. Llodra said that offer, for $650,000, was made with a caveat that she had little confidence the Board of Finance and Legislative Council would approve the amount. It was also made after the Oberstadts declined to make the town a counter-offer, Llodra said.

In September, the town offered the family $380,000 for the property—a 2.16-acre parcel appraised at $294,370. The Oberstadts’ attorney counter-offered with $898,000.

An alternative driveway was being considered as part of the construction of a new school, as the town takes into account the sensitivities many families have in returning to the place where 20 children and six educators were gunned down on Dec. 14, 2012.

In its comparison of the two options, the architectural firm, Svigals + Partners, notes:

“Based on the results of the analysis performed by the Design Team, the Dickinson Drive selection will be the most cost effective selection including the proposed transformative enhancements. However, to have the most distinctly different entrance, the 12 Riverside Road option would be the best selection.”

Essentially, the cost difference would be the price tag of acquiring the property at 12 Riverside Road. But with negotiations over, the idea of creating a new access road has been put to bed.

“We’re sort of left between a rock and a hard place, because we’re really down to no choices but to go back to Dickinson Drive," Legislative Council Chairman Mary Ann Jacob told Patch after the meeting. 

"With a week or two notice they’ve [Svigals + Partners] shown some interesting ways that they can make that experience more acceptable for people," she added. "We’ll have to wait and see how that truly plays out, but I was very encouraged by it.”

Under the concept presented Wednesday night, the enhancements to Dickinson Drive would include:

  • New entrance features at Riverside Road, including a landscaped median dividing traffic coming and going from Dickinson Drive
  • Screening/fencing along the Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire House property
  • Roadway realignment of Dickinson Drive across and through wetlands (this would require approval from the town’s Conservation Commission)
  • New roadway, lighting, sidewalks and stone retaining walls

Buses and cars would enter Dickinson Drive where they always have from Riverside Road. As they approach the school, buses would continue to a loop around the rear of the building and then back out to Dickinson. Cars would filter into a parking lot at the point where buses enter the loop.

[An image attached to this article shows a computer rendering of the proposed access road for Dickinson Drive.]

The plans, which ultimately must be approved by the Newtown Board of Education, also call for a left-turn-only lane on Riverside Road for vehicles approaching Dickinson Drive from the south (heading toward the village), as well as a median at that intersection. Llodra noted that funds for the project may not cover those elements.

The State of Connecticut has set aside $50 million for the construction of the new school, which is expected to be complete in time for the start of school in 2016.

MSM January 12, 2014 at 05:15 PM
I am with the understanding that the ED discussion was a matter of protocol per town charter, and that at no time did anyone wish to pursue it. Which is why it was immediately, and unanimously voted down in the meeting. The family has every right to reject offers. However their price did seem extremely high.
JWG January 13, 2014 at 10:19 AM
This what drives the cost up. No one confronted the owner prior to developing a project cost. So how was the rest of the cost proposal developed. With the use of the same DART BOARD
Paul Alexander January 13, 2014 at 11:22 AM
JWG...There is just NO incentive to husband resources (money) wisely when those resources are tax dollars. The Public Sector NEVER feels any pain when they gather capital. They just hold a gun to your head and say "pay up, or else". And when the public sector screws up they just hold another gun to the taxpayers head and say “pay up more”. The private sector ALWAYS feels pain as they gather (SAVE) their capital. And that pain forces the private sector to PLAN well so that they don’t misallocate and WASTE that hard earned capital. BY DEFINITION there will be cost and time overruns on the new Sandy Hook school simply because it is a public sector project. The two Chief Executives in town, The First Selectman and the Superintendent, should BOTH be former private sector C-level executives if you want to see the town’s finances managed more wisely. When you have two school teachers responsible for the two budgets you get what you deserve….waste and higher taxes.
Clare January 13, 2014 at 03:10 PM
Little Talks, I was answering Randy Pineau comment that it was "Nice to see Newtown has abandoned the effort to push this wonderful family out of their home." It just didn't seem that way to me.
Pat H. January 13, 2014 at 03:13 PM
Maybe we could name the road Adam Lanza Drive. I am being facetious of course but why not, after all it’s the same road Lanza drove down on his way to slaughter 20 children and six educators. When people drive down it now they will wonder what was going though his head when he made the same trek. What a comforting though for teachers, parents and children to have each morning as they start their day. And people including school kids WILL have those thoughts because the area, the ground and the look is the same. The idea of rebuilding this school on the present site was ridiculous; having the access road pass by the Fire House where victims sought refuge on that fateful day is absurd. What young family would ever want to move to Sandy Hook? I’m sure potential home buyers will be saying “Hey honey, if we buy the house in Sandy Hook our kids can attend that new elementary school built atop the same ground where there was a massacre a few years back.” Of course they won’t be saying that. What they will be saying is “let’s find another home in another town.” This latest idea is as dumb as it gets. Not surprised though given the caliber of people that run this town.

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