Developer Harold Fischel has won a long-sought victory.

The owner of the old Bleachery property on West Street in New Milford, Mr. Fischel has sought to construct a residential development of loft-type units next to The Bleachery artisan complex since 2006.

On Aug. 11, he saw hope glimmer that his development might occur. That night, the town's Zoning Commission approved the addition of a floating Housatonic Riverfront Zone that will allow development along a stretch of the riverfront with a focus on mixed-use residential, office, retail and other service businesses, as well as recreation and tourism.

The zone was proposed by Mr. Fischel through his agent, Paul Symanski, an engineer.

The floating zone could be applied to property with a minimum of 100-feet of frontage on the Housatonic River. The property must be located on municipal sewer and municipal water. It must be located on the east side of the river south of the intersection of Young's Field Road and Housatonic Avenue.

"I'm very pleased," Mr. Fischel said Aug. 12. "It's been a long, arduous task but I'm certainly delighted. We will try to make The Bleachery project a beautiful property that will be an asset to the community."

Zoning Commission members had deliberated for months on creating the zone, hearing public input and soliciting changes from Mr. Fischel and Mr. Symanski, often offering changes themselves.

"This is a proposal that started out weak but has been strengthened and improved," said commission member Sharon Ward. "The Housatonic Riverfront Zone offers opportunity to improve properties along the river. There had been a call to wait until the revised Plan of Conservation and Development, with its comprehensive look at the riverfront, was in place. But that is too far off."

To request the establishment of the zone, a petition must be submitted to the Zoning Commission, signed by the owners of all lots within the proposed zone.

When Zoning receives the petition, it will be referred to the Planning Commission and hold a public hearing. The application for zone change must be submitted with an application for a special permit and site plan for site development.

The Economic Development Commission had been a strong proponent of the zone. EDC Chairman Frank Wargo sees West Street as "a corridor to the town center."

"The end of West Street is the Fischel property. I see that in the future as an anchor for the riverfront," Mr. Wargo said. "I think if we get some nice retail businesses along that corridor, it would help that end of town."

Mr. Wargo noted how "rundown" South Main Street was in the 1970s.

"If you look at it now, it is beautiful," he said. "The architectural character of the buildings is still there while a revenue source has been developed for the town. I envision that happening for West Street."

Contact Susan Tuz

at stuz@newstimes.com

or 860-355-7322.