Fate of road will affect property values

The question of what to do with Old Two Rod Highway — abandonment or not — is more than theoretical. There are 12 parcels of land that would be affected, two of which are owned by the town.

The matter of what to do with the road has been percolating for years, but it is on the front burner now following a state judges’s finding that the road — which is little more than a wide pathway through the woods — is a legitimate right-of-way. The finding came about as a result of a lawsuit brought by developer Christopher Montanaro, who owns land along the road. The finding also opened the door for owners of property along Old Two Rod Highway to develop their land if they wish.

Official abandonment of the road by the town would render those parcels along it landlocked, with no other means of access.

The difference in value between property with road frontage and landlocked property is tremendous.

For instance, a 15-acre piece of landlocked property that abuts Old Two Rod Highway is currently appraised at $440,000.

By comparison, 15 acres with road frontage on Honey Hill Road — not more than a quarter-mile from Old Two Rod Highway — is currently listed for sale at $3 million.

When town officials decide how to handle Old Two Rod Highway — the other option besides abandonment is to leave it as is — they will also be deciding the value of the property that sits on it.

If Wilton decides to follow the opinion of Town Attorney Ken Bernhard, who also sits on the board of directors of the Aspetuck Valley Land Trust, an organization that holds open-space property abutting Old Two Rod Highway, the road would be abandoned, and property owners would lose their right to build.

The land would remain essentially useless — from a development standpoint — and  property values would remain a fraction of the value of other lots for sale in town.

Such a condemnation of use would help the Aspetuck Valley Land Trust extend its holdings in the area, something its president, David Brandt, said at the Board of Selectmen’s meeting on Nov. 3.

“We would be very interested in taking a hand in preserving this,” he said. “We’re more than willing to raise funds to try and preserve some of this land.

Mr. Montanaro has offered to build a road along a portion of the Old Two Rod Highway right-of-way, which his attorney, Robert Fuller, said he has a right to do. Mr. Montanaro, he said, is prepared to make it passable for emergency vehicles, which it currently is not.