John Carr has traversed a long road in his attempt to develop 24 acres for affordable housing in Bridgewater.

The journey might be reaching a successful end for the local contractor.

Carr said he hopes to attract young families, seniors who are downsizing, and tradesmen.

"There used to be wonderful diversity in Bridgewater," said Carr, a 47-year resident. "I want to bring that back, to keep seniors and young people from having to leave by offering housing at resonable prices."

In 1997, he made his first attempt to develop the parcel along Main Street (Route 133), just north of the village center.

His proposal was denied by the town's Planning and Zoning Commission based on concerns about potential affects on neighboring wells.

A modified application by Carr was again denied in November 2000, after a procedural mixup with the Conservation and Inland Wetlands commissions.

After a series of appeals by both Carr and the Planning and Zoning Commission, the commission's denial was reversed in 2003 by Judge William Mottolese, in a state Superior Court appeal process.

The proviso to Mottolese's decision was Carr had to consolidate the three separate lots into one 24-acre parcel and receive state Department of Environmental Protection approval of a wastewater treatment system for the property.

Carr also had to test well water for radionuculide levels and receive state Department of Public Health clearance.

Carr recently submitted plans for a wastewater treatment system to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

If approval were to be received, Carr could resubmit to Bridgewater Planning and Zoning to build a 100-unit residential development.

"The judge giveth and the judge taketh away," Carr's attorney, Neil Marcus, noted.

"While Judge Mottolese gave Planning and Zoning the right to `impose reasonable conditions' on John's resubmitting to develop of the property," Marcus said, "he added that if there is a dispute about the DEEP and DPUC approvals, it goes back to the judge to decide."

Carr said, "I complied with the court order.... I expect DEEP's decision to take some time."

"Many people in Bridgewater have been supportive of the project," Carr said, "and I believe when people see the positive impact bringing young families in will have on the school system, there will be even more support."

Bridgewater's Burnham School -- one of three elementary schools in the Region 12 school district -- has experienced a sharp decline in student population. This school year, there are just 55 students in grades K through five.

By 2023, it is predicted the entire three-town Shepaug region would have just 460 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Carolyn Dwyer, co-founder of Save Our School, is a key player in trying to attract young families to Bridgewater.

She is cautious about Carr's plan.

"We obviously want new, young families here," Dwyer said. "But for now, we're implementing our own creative solutions to fill the existing empty houses in town."

While Judge Mottolese's decision was given in 2003, a sputtering real estate market in ensuing years had Carr put the housing project on hold.

Now, with an economic upturn, he is moving forward once again.

Longtime Planning & Zoning member Leo Null said Tuesday he wishes Carr well with his plans.

"If John has an approved permit from the DEEP for wastewater treatment and the wells cleared, the commission should approve," said Null, who retired Oct. 7 from the commission.

Null has retained his seat as Bridgewater selectman.

stuz@newstimes.com; 203-731-3352