Lauretti: Artifacts discovery won’t delay start of Shelton’s Constitution Boulevard extension

SHELTON — The discovery of indigenous peoples’ artifacts will not significantly delay the start of construction of the Constitution Boulevard extension planned for next month, according to Mayor Mark Lauretti.

Lauretti confirmed the discovery of the artifacts on what is known as the Churma property — the site at 55 Blacks Hill Road which was recently condemned by the city. Lauretti said the land has been transferred to the city, with a judge’s decision on final payment to the property owners still in process.

“Archaeologists are dealing with this now,” Lauretti said. “It is causing a little bit of a delay, but I still believe we will be starting next month.

“They have to excavate them, and that is still going on,” Lauretti added. “This is not really all that uncommon. (These kinds of artifacts) can be found throughout the city.”

The Constitution Boulevard work — on the drawing board for some three decades — is expected to be completed within a year from groundbreaking, Ron Nault of DeCarlo and Doll Architects and Engineers told residents of Cotts Street and Blacks Hill Road, all impacted by the extension of the road into the city-owned Mas property, during an informational meeting Wednesday.

Work can begin now that the city owns both properties that sit between Bridgeport Avenue and the city-owned Mas property. The city purchased 56 Blacks Hill Road for $590,000, with the cost being covered through use of American Rescue Plan funds, in February.

Nault said the plans call for Bridgeport Avenue to have four lanes at its intersection with Constitution Boulevard and new, modernized streetlights will be installed.

Nault said the work will include blasting and tree removal.

There will also be work on the area of Blacks Hill Road where it will intersect the new street. Nault said the work will be minimizing the present dip in the road.

Areas of Cots Street and Blacks Hill Road near the work will also be widened, which Nault said will improve the driving conditions in that area.

Nearly a dozen residents living and working along Cots Street and Blacks Hill Road voiced concerns about the impacts of this new roadway. Owners of the Shelton Medical Center, located on Cots Street, recommended making road improvements the length of Cots Street to its intersection with Bridgeport Avenue.

Lauretti said there are no plans to widen the remaining stretch of Cots Street at this time, and even suggested that a cul-de-sac may be created preventing a connection between Cots Street and the soon-to-be created Constitution Boulevard extension.

“We do not want to encourage people going off Constitution Boulevard to Cots Street,” Lauretti said.

Other residents wanted more clarity on the impacts of the plans, including what the projected traffic counts will be once complete.

Nault said the meeting was just informational — offering a chance for residents to ask questions and voice concerns — not a technical session, which will come in the weeks ahead.

“The traffic is designed for Constitution Boulevard only … this should not impact Cots Street or Blacks Hill Road,” said Michael Kanios, the city’s acting Department of Public Works director.

Kanios said that the Mas property will be a mostly industrial corporate park, with many warehousing facilities, not requiring hundreds of employees. He said that means the traffic for the sites would naturally use the new roadway from Bridgeport Avenue to access the Mas site.

Extending the roadway and use of the Mas property has been on the table for years, but Lauretti began the most recent push in April 2021 when he presented preliminary plans for creating the road leading into the city-owned land, which would be developed into a manufacturing corporate park.

Plans for accessing the 70-acre property include extending Constitution Boulevard to reach Route 108. Lauretti said a zone change would be needed, requiring plans to go before zoning at some point.

The Mas property is now vacant. It is mostly wooded with considerable stone ledges and several ponds, including one that is about 600 feet long and 250 to 300 feet wide, and lies between Bridgeport Avenue, Cots Street, Tisi Drive, Sunwood Condos on Nells Rock Road, Regent Drive, Walnut Avenue and Kings Highway. Part of the land abuts the back of the Perry Hill School property.

The city already has tentative agreements with Bigelow Tea and William and Nicole Charney, owners of Shelton-based Advanced Home Audio, which is presently located on Long Hill Cross Road, to purchase land on the Mas property.

The Charneys agreed to pay the city $85,000 per acre, which comes out to $510,000. The aldermen’s approval states the total acreage and payment amount will be determined after the final subdivision of the nearly 70-acre parcel near Constitution Boulevard.

That sale came weeks after Lauretti announced that Bigelow Tea was purchasing 25 acres of the property for an estimated $2.1 million for its future expansion.