Southington’s year in review


SOUTHINGTON — State elections, real estate developments and a 60-year wedding anniversary were among the top stories in 2022.

At the beginning of the year, a Texas company proposed a 264-unit housing development on West Street but the plan’s future is now uncertain.

Anthony Properties was looking for town zoning changes to build a mixed-use project with more than 250 apartments. The company wants to build on three properties, totaling 41 acres, owned by the Tolles family located at 1303, 1193 and 1177 West St. Anthony Properties was looking for a zone change that would allow greater density, building height and less commercial space in the mixed-use transition zone.

While the company submitted the request in January, by the next month it had withdrawn the request. Company officials said they intend to resubmit a revised proposal.

Bob and Ans Swanson celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in February and recounted the chance encounter in the Netherlands during the 1960s that brought them together. 

While Ans Swanson is outgoing and talkative, Bob Swanson is more reserved. They feel their opposite personalities helped them get along through the years, as well as a shared passion for soccer. At 81 years old, Bob Swanson is still a referee at Southington High School games. Both husband and wife coached soccer and led the Southington Soccer Club and the Youth Soccer League.

In March, Town Council members disagreed on flying the Ukrainian flag over Town Hall.

Town council leaders organized a drive to collect medical supplies for Ukrainian hospitals and decided against flying that country’s flag from Town Hall. Republicans opposed flying any flags from town buildings while Democrats supported it. The next month, Republicans prevailed over Democrats to pass an ordinance restricting flags on municipal grounds.

While the law restricts the flying of all but government, military and school flags from town buildings, much of the debate centered on the rainbow flag that was flown by Southington Pride last year. The group wanted to fly its flag again this year at the John Weichsel Municipal Center.

Republicans said clear rules prevent lengthy debates over which flags are and aren’t acceptable. Democrats said the council could make those decisions.

Town officials signed an agreement with downtown Plantsville property owners to create a 39-space municipal lot to make parking easier for visitors. With on-street parking not allowed in downtown Plantsville, property owners said public parking is important to the success of area businesses.

The 39-lot parking area is slated for the rear of 26 W. Main St., 774 S. Main St. and 778 S. Main St., along the river. In exchange for a portion of property owner’s land, the town will build and maintain the municipal lot.

In May, state officials worked on plans to remove a nearly century-old bridge that carries Route 10 over Route 322, and replace it with a regular intersection and traffic light.

The change is part of a larger state Department of Transportation project that will reconfigure the Route 10/Route 322/Old Turnpike Road area in Southington. State officials hope to begin construction next year. Among the biggest changes is the removal of a portion of Norton Street, which DOT project manager Jeffrey Pfaffinger described as a “defacto on and off ramp for Route 10.” 

Under the plan, bridges carrying Route 10 and Route 322 over the Ten Mile River will be replaced. The y-shaped intersection of Route 10 and the section of Old Turnpike Road south of Route 322 will be reconfigured to make Old Turnpike Road a distinct right-hand turn from Route 10 northbound. The $11 million project will also add sidewalks and widen the Old Turnpike Road/Route 322 intersection to allow better turning.

A tenth-generation Upson descendant, Elizabeth Upson Stanley was the last of the founding family to live at its Marion Avenue homestead. Stanley, 84, moved with her son to Florida in June. It was a difficult decision, but necessary move, she said.

She’s also encouraged that much of the family land is now protected open space.

Thomas Upson came to Southington from Waterbury in 1732 and established a tin shop on the Marion Avenue homestead. That section of Southington was named by the Upsons, many of whom went to work in Marion, Alabama.

The family had about 300 acres at one time, Stanley said. Sold or donated as protected open space over the years, the last piece is the house, built in 1866. An older saltbox house once on the property is now gone.

In July, Alexandra Anderson and her relatives from Ukraine were preparing for an art exhibit at SOCCA. Anderson’s mother Iryna Hizhytsa and Hizhytsa’s daughter Yevheniia Sheremet and her 11-year-old son Misha flew to Europe in May and began the process of coming to Southington, where they’re now living. Anderson came to the United States in 2005 from Ukraine and has lived in Southington for years.

Anderson’s relatives are among a group of Ukrainians that came to Southington following Russia’s invasion earlier this year. The refugees have connected with family, friends and other Ukrainian-Americans to start rebuilding their lives, getting homes and jobs and learning English.

SOCCA held an art exhibit with all Ukrainian artists in September.

In August, fire chief James Paul announced his retirement from the department.

Paul was appointed chief in March of last year. He was assistant fire chief and fire marshal until the departure of Fire Chief Richard Butler in late 2020.

Paul, an Air Force veteran, began his career in Southington in 1993. He worked his way up the ranks to battalion chief. In 2018, he was chosen as assistant fire chief and fire marshal. 

After the departure of Butler, the fire board appointed Paul as interim chief while they awaited results of a consultant’s candidate search. Paul was chosen from the finalists in that search.

Prior to Butler’s appointment, Assistant Fire Chief Eric Heath held the position of interim department leader. Heath took the role as the department looked for a replacement for Chief Harold “Buddy” Clark.

The Board of Fire Commissioners hired Heath as Paul’s replacement.

Local coach Pete Sepko passed away in September and was remembered for the countless hours and impacted he had on thousands of children over his many years at Southington High School.

His playing and coaching career spanned from the 1960s into the new millennium.

Sepko was a 1967 Southington High grad who coached and taught at his alma mater for 36 years before retiring in 2007.

He died on Thursday at the age of 73 in Niantic. Jaye, his wife of 50 years, was by his side.

Sepko’s his impact was great at Southington High as a student-athlete, physical education teacher and coach. A Connecticut High School Coaches Association Hall of Famer, Sepko was a 2001 state Coach of the Year. He was inducted into the Southington Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.

Avventura Bakery & Deli reopened on Knotter Drive in October nearly a year after a fire closed the restaurant.

Rami Macari owns the shop and manages it with his father, Robert Macari. They first opened in 2018 but a fire last November forced them to close.

A long rebuilding process has finally finished, Robert Macari said, allowing them to reopen. Despite the difficulty in rebuilding during materials shortages, Robert Macari said closing for good wasn’t an option.

“We owe it to our community. We have a built a clientele, a nice customer base. They were just as devastated as us. We had no option but to reopen,” he said Monday.

Rami Macari started the Southington location at 30 Knotter Drive after working at a similarly named bakery and deli in Waterbury, which is now closed. Macari said many of the customers of that deli, originally Cavallo’s Deli in the 1960s, have moved to Southington.

Democrat Chris Poulos won a seat in the General Assembly by one vote following a recount in November.

While Poulos had a six vote lead over his Republican opponent Tony Morrison on election night, a recanvas of more than 10,000 ballots over the course of the day Monday dropped that lead to a single vote.

The final total was 5,297 votes for Poulos to 5,296 votes for Morrison,

In December, a Branford-based development company took over the Greenway Commons project in downtown Southington.

Meridian Development Partners, a New York-based company that’s had the former Ideal Forging property for years, sold the land. While the town long ago approved the downtown parcel for residential and retail development, Meridian hasn’t been able to get to the building stage.

Last December, Michael Massimino of GR Realty asked for a tax abatement to help offset the costs of lead, oil and PCB abatement on the former factory site. GR Realty is based in Branford.

The Town Council granted the tax abatement a year ago and members hoped the change of ownership would spark progress at the Center Street location. The value of the abatement will depend on how much the developed property is worth.

The company 195 Center Street Associates LLC bought the property for $1.35 million on Dec. 2.

 

 

 

 

[email protected]: @JBuchananRJ





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