Work starts on new waterfront homes in Shelton

Construction has started on a 36-unit townhouse development by Toll Brothers on River Road, along the Housatonic River.

Site work began on Shelton Cove at 550 River Road during the past few weeks, with crews clearing trees and preparing the 12.4-acre property for sewers, roads and residential structures.

“Shelton is an outstanding town and this is a great location,” said Greg Kamedulski, Toll Brothers group president for New England. “It’s very commutable, with the parkway so close to get down-county. A lot of our homes will have beautiful views of the river.”

The development will include two- and three-bedroom units that are expected to sell in the $390,000 to $525,000 range.

Kamedulski said more than 70 people already are on a list of potential buyers. People interested in buying townhouses can call 203-924-0900 to learn more about the project.

Model could open in the spring

Publicity material by Tolls Brothers describes Shelton Cove as “a luxury waterfront community” with “spectacular views of the Housatonic River” that will enable residents to “enjoy recreational activities along the river.”

Kamedulski said construction of a model unit should begin within a month and be open by the late spring. Publicity material says the townhouses should be ready for occupancy in late 2014.

With a townhouse community, units are connected to each other in clusters. Kamedulski said building sizes will vary at Shelton Cove, with two to four units per structure. The roads in Shelton Cove will be private, but it will not be a gated community, he said.

As part of the zoning approval process, some of the Shelton Cove property now has a conservation easement, meaning it can never be developed.

Toll Brothers active in Connecticut

Toll Brothers has completed about 50 residential communities in Connecticut, with a total of about 1,800 homes, according to Kamedulski.

In Shelton, Toll Brothers built the Huntington Estates development near Shelton High School about a decade ago (this includes large homes on roads such as Wellington Court).

Kamedulski said Shelton Cove will be a positive addition to the city. “We think this will be a great community for Shelton,” he said.

Mayor’s involvement brought attention

The property on Route 110, which is about 1.5 miles north of the Sports Center of Connecticut complex, has been in the news because most of it — 9.3 acres — was owned by an entity (Housatonic Way LLC) controlled by Mayor Mark Lauretti for many years.

Lauretti had bought the land in 2003 from Emhart Technologies for $325,000, and sold it earlier this year after a zone change was received for the townhouse residential project.

The purchaser was Blue Heron Cove LLC of Torrington, which paid Lauretti $1.92 million for the property. Blue Heron Cove was the applicant for the zone change that was approved by the Shelton Planning and Zoning Commission.

Blue Heron Cove then resold the land for $3.5 million a few months later to Toll Brothers, a well-known national housing development company.

Criticism by political opponents

Lauretti’s involvement in such a profitable land deal was criticized by political opponents, and the focus of an unsuccessful Shelton Board of Ethics complaint that focused on his dual role as economic development director and mayor.

Lauretti dismissed the criticism as the work of his political opponents, insisting he had as much right to make money as anyone else. He pointed out that he incurred many expenses while owning the land for a decade and said the zoning approval process was not out of the ordinary.

The mayor also emphasized the city has made more than $60,000 through conveyance taxes on the two property transactions this year, and the high-end development will generate new property taxes.

“It’s a cash cow for the city,” Lauretti said. “The city is the real winner here, but I know some people want to focus on me.”

‘No second thoughts’

While Lauretti made a nice profit, so did Blue Heron Cove. Lauretti said he had talked to Toll Brothers about the company possibly buying the land when he owned it, but never received a response.

He said he has no regrets over that, or about the large profit made by Blue Heron Cove in such a short period of time.

“You always second guess yourself, but I’m not really in that business,” Lauretti said. “So, no second thoughts.”