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Students Present Development Plans for United Water Property [Poll]

David E. Owens Middle School students present plans for what they would develop on the 13-acre United Water property.

Since that includes a 70,500 sq. ft. supermarket, a 4300 sq. ft. bank and 221-unit multi-family housing complex with a 428-space multi-level parking garage and a pool on the 13-acres of land known as the United Water property, it seems as if the entire town is engaged in the conversation of what should go there. The children of the town are no exception.

social studies teacher, Peter Galasso, challenged his class to design and develop a plan for how they would utilize the 13 vacant acres based on the articles that they have been following in Patch--from the filing of the site plans to the progress of the zoning board of adjustment hearings. 

Of the 15 designs presented on Tuesday, the majority included these overriding themes: flood prevention, berms, a recreation center and a field of dreams. A recreation center was prevalent in most of the design plans, the recurring argument being that there is no safe place for the youth of New Milford to go and "hang out" in a "safe environment." 

All of the designs included an affordable housing component, although some were designed as apartment complexes while others were designed as townhouses. One presentation dedicated the housing units entirely to seniors as a way to alleviate any potential for further overcrowding of the school system. 

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The commercial component of the site plans differed, with some designs dedicated to independent shops and restaurants, while others included large chain stores and franchise restaurants such as Outback and KFC. One plan designed a mall on the 13-acre property, another had the "Fun In Inn," a hotel resort with a pool, movie theater, gym, bowling alley, football and soccer field designed to be a center of profit for the town of New Milford. 

Most of the plans included a new . However, one plan traded Shop Rite for a Walmart, and another traded Shop Rite for a Trader Joe's to "open horizons for different tastes" in New Milford. One design focused on the bank because "all the new money coming in from the commercial development has to be put somewhere." Many included underground parking garages not only to provide an alternative to above-ground parking, but to allow adequate space for the field of dreams.

There were plans that dedicated a substantial amount of property for open space to be used as a sanctuary for wildlife and as a permeable buffer between the buildings and the river where water from storms can be absorbed to alleviate potential flooding. 

Evident among all of the presentations was the amount of thought, creativity and collaboration that the students put into designing their site plans. Evident also was their mature grasp of the pertinent issues being discussed by the attorneys, zoning board members, experts and residents regarding the fate of the 13 acres of the United Water property and the stake that they have in its future.  

Mary McElroy May 25, 2012 at 12:51 AM
Ulises, your strong feelings are understandable given your experiences with flooding but as you can see when it comes to Mr. Galasso, many of us, both parents & students alike, feel very strongly about his abilities as a teacher. He's one of the most admired teachers in our district; this year he was named not only teacher of the year at the middle school but also the district teacher of the year - both honors well deserved because this is someone who always goes above & beyond for NM kids both in and out of the classroom. So keep playing hard ball with UW & Heikeman - we love that about you-but leave Mr. Galasso alone!!!
Ulises May 25, 2012 at 01:16 AM
Mary, I agree and I've said it here more than once that I stand corrected now. Thank you.
Denise May 25, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Joanne-Perhaps if the teacher that gave this assignment had given the students ALL the information regarding the project you wouldn't be saying shame on the adults for attacking the work of the students.,SOD is not only a group of people who have had personal & difficult experiences in the flood zones of NM, but people who don't want Hekemian building a debacle on the UW site. The idea of having SOD members educate the students on ALL information that is available is ideally a good one.
Anonymous2 May 25, 2012 at 08:39 PM
Denise, I am positive that my fellow classmates and I were extremely cappable of researching the material needed to construct the completed project, and any future assignment. Honesly, what is the purpose of any project if the inscructor decides to supply all information that should be left to the participants? I am aware that many individuals of this town have been affected by flooding, but the students are in no way oblivious to the issue of flooding. I can name several students in my class that have been affected greatly by flooding.
Kaitlyn C. May 25, 2012 at 09:08 PM
As one of Mr. Galasso's students, I have found that he is one of the best teachers I have ever had! He is very involved in his classes and cares for his students! I don't think he deserves ANY negative comments!

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