Bethel First Selectman Community Update: Highlands Town, Public Hearing, Office Hours and More!

Bethel - a Highlands Town

The Board of Selectmen voted this week to make Bethel a Highlands town. The Highlands region was created by Congress and is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to create land conservation projects. The Highlands Conservation Act was reauthorized and allows towns that border the original region to join. If approved, Bethel will join other towns that receive federal funding to protect our natural resources. 

Old Police Department

There was additional asbestos discovered in the Old Police Department, but work to demolish the building is back on track. 

Public Hearing on July 5th

Some good news for the Bethel taxpayers. We have offers on two of the town-owned properties in Francis J Clarke Park. The Board of Selectmen has scheduled a public hearing on July 5th at 7 pm in the Town Hall Meeting Room A. If approved by the Board of Selectmen, following the meeting, there is a Special Town Meeting scheduled on July 6th at 7 pm in Town Hall Meeting Room A where residents can vote on the sales. Once approved, like any real estate deal, things can fall through, so let’s all hope for the best!

CT Baby Bonds

I attended a presentation on CT Baby Bonds this week. Babies born after July 1 to Bethel families on Husky insurance will automatically be enrolled in the CT Baby Bond program. $3200 will be put into a trust and when your child is between 18 and 30, your child can make a claim to receive between $11,000 and $24,000 which they can use for a home, to start a business, pay for college or job training, or save for retirement. Funds do not go directly to the individual and they will need to take a financial literacy course. They must also be a CT Resident at the time of the claim.

The assessor’s office

The assessor’s office has had many calls this week about last year’s property assessments and the effect on our taxes. With the influx of residents during the pandemic, Bethel saw a significant increase in property values, especially on smaller single-family homes and condos. While residential property went up by 37% and condos by 64%, commercial property only grew by 15% and industrial by 14%. It’s also clear that many of our larger homes did not substantially increase in value. Even though the town budget only increased by 3.89%, many residents have big tax bills from the shift in tax burden from commercial properties and larger homes, to smaller homes and condos.

Many towns are dealing with the same assessment issue and we are discussing ways to grow business in in a way that grows our tax base, including how we use industrial property and create innovative ways to support businesses in town. In the meantime, we should all be aware that there are many of our neighbors who find it hard to afford staying in town, or even our state, were just dealt a big blow.

Office Hours

I will be holding my biweekly office hours on Wednesday, June 28th from 7 am to 8 am in the First Selectman’s office in Town Hall. We can discuss the assessment, or anything else on your mind.

The 6th Bethel Tunnel to Towers Run/Walk will take place on June 25th from 8:30 am to 11 am. The event will begin and end at the Bethel High School track/football field. The route: northwest on Whittlesey Dr. to Plumtrees Rd. Left on Plumtrees Rd to Maple Ave. Continue onto Maple Ave to Main St. Right onto Main Street and continue onto School Street. Left on Library Place to Greenwood Ave. Left on Greenwood Ave to Milwaukee Ave. Right on Milwaukee Ave to Judd Ave. Left on Judd Ave to Whittlesey Dr. Right on Whittlesey Dr. and end at the BHS track/football field. 

Distinguished villains (and Minion lovers), unfortunately tonight’s movie night on the Town Hall Green is postponed due to weather. Date to be determined. 

Tonight’s Bethel Arts exhibition opening of Tree Skirts at Meckauer Park is rescheduled to June 30th at 4 pm.

Our next Food Truck Friday is July 7th from 5pm to 8pm in front of Town Hall. The “Tom Duffy Band” will entertain us while Szabo, Fork in the Road, The Chamo, Notch 8, Brazilian BBQ Boys and Polar Sweets satisfy our hunger. As always, you can also support downtown restaurants with their to-go options. Be kind to downtown businesses and park behind the Town Hall. Thanks again to Newtown Savings for your support of the event!

Bethel Arts has partnered with some local folks to bring something really fun to Bethel on Saturday, August 12th. I know it is over a month away, but preparation is key.  Join your friends and neighbors for the Bethel Drum Circle! Please plan on brining a percussion instrument and prepare for a fun afternoon of joy and musical rhythms. It’s a free event. More to follow.

A shoutout to the Bethel businesses who attended the Bethel Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting this week. It was a pleasure to join you and thank you for all the support you give our community!

Have a great weekend! 


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