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Environmental Worries Pepper Zoning Debate in "Satan's Kingdom"

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A proposed industrial development could rezone nearly 60 acres in Canton and New Hartford's Satan's Kingdom.

A proposed industrial development on 60 acres near the Farmington River is generating pushback from residents in New Hartford and Canton.

The proposed development is in Satan's Kingdom. No one knows how the spot got its unique name, but it's thought to be named for the area's rocky geography and, maybe, for an outlaw village that existed there before 1800.

New Hartford Town Historian Anne C. Hall said writers have played with the name for centuries. There's even a poem about a man from the area. "He went to hear a minister," she said, "and the minister was preaching for the destruction of Satan's kingdom. He lived in Satan's Kingdom, and so was very upset at the minister."

Now developer Allan Borghesi, -- from, you guessed it, Satan's Kingdom, LLC -- wants to build on that land. His first step: rezoning about 60 acres in Canton and New Hartford from residential to industrial. "What we're proposing is an office/industrial complex consisting of six buildings, anticipated to be the size somewhere between ten and 25,000 square feet," he said.

One thing Borghesi said he won't put there is retail. Any proposed industrial development, he said, would be buffered from the road, and subject to environmental oversights that are stricter than those governing residential zones. If the rezoning measure passes, he also said he plans to donate about 8.5 acres of land to a local land trust, which he hopes will quell the concerns of those worried about potential noise pollution or scenic deterioration.

Credit Corey Lynn Tucker Photography
The Farmington River as viewed from Rt. 44 on the border of Canton and New Hartford.

Kevin Baldwin, who lives nearby, said western Canton is filled with low-density residential developments. "This would be dropping a wedge into that, if you will, of industrial zone," he said. That raises concerns about the rural character of the town of Canton, he said, which "spends a great deal of time and effort and is very proud of the image Canton has. There's also the potential environmental risks that come along with an industrial zone so close to the Farmington River."

New Hartford has already approved the zoning change. If Canton doesn't allow the zoning switch, Borghesi said he'll build residential. "We've laid it out already to see what could be installed," he said. "We feel very comfortable that at least 22 homes could be built on that site. We did talk to some of the neighbors about the residential development. If we do that, obviously, we're not going to give up the conservation area and all the buffers and the neighbors, at that point, seemed happier with the [industrial] development than they did with the residential."

The town will hold a public hearing on the issue at 7:30 pm on Wednesday at the Canton High School.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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