Public against Beecher Street proposal; Council tables decision until next meeting

By Lisa Capobianco
Staff Writer
Local residents voiced their opinions Monday at a public hearing, opposing the potential sale of 49 Beecher Street, the former home of the school system’s administrative offices.
Nearly a dozen residents stood up to the podium before the Southington Town Council, rejecting the sale of 49 Beecher Street for $220,000 to Beecher Street, LLC.
Under the proposal, members of Beecher Street, LLC, Ralph Monti of Wolcott and William Martin of Watertown, would turn the property into 30 units of affordable housing for senior citizens. Their agent Louis Martocchio, who also serves as a Republican councilor, recused himself from the public hearing.
Monti said the proposed rent of a two-bedroom unit would cost around $800 while a one-bedroom unit would cost around $700, with all utilities included except for phone and cable.
Besides a laundry room, Monti also said he has other plans for the building besides turning it into apartments.
“In the existing structure, we would like to include a community room with a cooking facility,” Monti said. “We would also like to have an emergency generator that is gas-fired in the event there is a power outage or if something happens in the community.”
According to town records, the appraised value of the property is more than $800,000 while its assessed value is $561,750. Resident Dean Zubko from 68 Beecher Street said his house dates back to 1880, and it is worth more than the proposed bid of the vacant building.
“This property is less than 80,000 sq. feet,” Zubko said. “I have a 135-year-old house that is worth more than $220,000, and it’s on a 10,000 sq. foot lot.”
Zubko presented a petition before the Town Council, which has more than 100 signatures from other residents who oppose the selling of the property. From Matthews Street to Williams Street to Hill Street, at least 95 percent of residents living in or near the Beecher Street neighborhood signed the petition.
Zubko said they will continue to fight until the town looks into other options for the future of the Beecher Street building, which was returned back to the town last year when administrators moved into the new municipal center.
“For Southington to sell that property for $220,000, it seems like they’re giving it away,” Zubko said. “I think the town should look hard into trying to use this property for themselves, for the town and for the owners of the neighborhood.”
Other residents who testified agreed, saying the proposed affordable housing complex “does not fit the neighborhood.” Calling the property an “intricate part of the neighborhood for the Board of Education,” Joseph Miceli, a Beecher Street resident, said turning the property into an apartment complex will disrupt the “close-knit community.”
“Many of us have lived our entire lives here,” Miceli said. “It has been an ideal setting for us to raise our family.”
Residents also brought up another issue with the proposal: the size of the property. Zubko said they are concerned about the “overdevelopment” of the project, and turning the building into a 30-unit housing complex may cause safety issues.
“I understand we need senior housing,” Zubko said. “I just don’t think this neighborhood fits 30 units.”
The matter was tabled until the council’s next meeting, scheduled for Monday, Sept. 30.
Democrat Councilor John Barry brought up the idea of using the building for single-family complexes if the town decides not to use it for open space. He said the town should consider choosing a different route that best serves the interests of the community.
“I think it is about the density—the amount of units,” Barry said. “We have to re-gather what we want to do with this part of Southington, old Southington, the real roots of our community.”