Land for big housing development sold to Toll Brothers

BETHEL -- Land set to be developed for 238 new houses was sold for $11.7 million to the national home builder Toll Brothers.

"We're very happy, we think they'll do a good job,"
Gary Michael , a partner with Joseph Novella in G & N Chelsea, LLC, said about the sale to Toll Brothers, which took place Friday.

In December 2006 G & N Chelsea got town approval to develop 84 acres high above Wooster Street -- near the Danbury border -- into an active adult community to be called Chelsea Heights.

"We plan to build what was approved," Gregory Kamedulski , division president of Toll Brothers Connecticut, said about the project.

Site work, including excavation and road construction, will start in the late winter or early spring, and construction of model homes should begin in summer 2009, he said.

Units will likely cost between $300,000 to $400,000, Kamedulski said.

Of the 238 homes to be built, 143 will be restricted to people 55 years old or older. The remaining 95 units will be available to anyone but will be targeted to older adults.

In the fall of this year Michael and Novella put Chelsea Heights on hold because of the economic downturn and poor housing market. They asked and received a one-year extension from the town's Planning and Zoning Commission for the start of construction.

Kamedulski, however, said Toll Brothers is doing well in the state. "Our sales have been very good in Connecticut."

Toll Brothers doesn't build on speculation, but on contract. In a similar project to Chelsea Heights in Prospect, Kamedulski said Toll Brothers has sold 65 units this year.

"I'm pleased to hear the project is moving forward," Bethel Land Use Official Steve Palmer said about Chelsea Heights. "Especially considering the economic times we are in, it speaks very well of Bethel that a housing project of this size is considered viable at this time."

The Toll Brothers name became well known -- sometimes negatively -- in Bethel over the last six years, especially for residents on Reservoir Street.

In 2002 Toll Brothers proposed an affordable housing development of 128 units on 22 acres on Reservoir Street. Nearby residents were strongly opposed, saying the project was too dense for the area and among other problems would greatly increase traffic on the busy road -- accusations that Toll Brothers denied.

The project was rejected by the town's land-use boards and a series of lawsuits against the town by Toll Brothers followed. In fall 2007 the town's Planning and Zoning Commission reached a settlement with Toll Brothers that allowed the builder to submit an application for a 62-unit housing development at the Reservoir Street site. In turn, Toll Brothers dropped the lawsuits.

Construction of Bethel Meadows began this year and again there was controversy when neighbors objected to the strength of the site blasting, which was shaking homes and nerves. But Toll Brothers and town officials said the blasting was done within the parameters allowed by the state.

Bethel Meadows is open for sales and Kamedulski said contracts have already been signed for eight units and that there are deposits for several others.

When an application for Chelsea Heights was first made in 2005, residents in the nearby Wooster Woods development had concerns with the project, particularly the amount of traffic that would be generated on Apollo Road -- the access to Chelsea Heights -- and the large amount of excavation needed on the rocky hillside.

Among the changes developers made to the original plans was to move the site of the entrance to Chelsea Heights so the amount of ledge that will need to be cut will be reduced. As part of their approval of the project the Planning and Zoning Commission stipulated 51 conditions, including environmentally friendly lighting, speed humps and construction of fieldstone walls in front of existing houses near the entrance to the new complex.

Kamedulski doesn't agree with the negative perception of the current real estate market. He said that because home prices and interest rates are low, "our perception is that from the buyer's point of view there is no better time to buy than right now."

Contact Marietta Homayonpour at

or at (203) 731-3336.

Sale stats WHAT -- Sale of 84 acres in Bethel where 238-unit housing development called Chelsea Heights will be built SOLD TO -- National home builder Toll Brothers FOR -- $11.7 million