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.