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Liberty At Newtown Residents Oppose Toll Brothers’ Zoning Proposals

Photo: Andrew Gorosko

This structure is a Toll Brothers temporary office building on Mt Pleasant Road in Hawleyville. The future of the office site was among the topics discussed at length at a Planning & Zoning Commission public hearing on July 18. 

Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) members are reviewing a four-pronged application from a developer concerning some zoning modifications for a Hawleyville parcel, a proposal that has drawn strong opposition from residents living at an adjacent age-restricted condominium complex.

The Liberty at Newtown residents’ objections largely focus on quality-of-life issues.

About 50 residents from Liberty at Newtown, a 96-unit condo complex at 178 Mt Pleasant Road (Route 6), attended a July 18 P&Z public hearing to lodge their objections to the four zoning proposals from Toll CT III Limited Partnership. The partnership represents Toll Brothers, a residential developer.

In its proposal, Toll is seeking a change of zone, a two-lot resubdivision, a modification of a special permit, and a time extension for the use of temporary offices that are located on Mt Pleasant Road immediately east of the Liberty entrance.

Toll is now constructing a 178-unit age-restricted condo complex known as Newtown Woods on a 50-acre site adjacent to Liberty at Newtown. Newtown Woods has vehicle access at 166 Mt Pleasant Road, which lies about 1,250 feet east of the Liberty entrance.

The approximately 1.5-acre site where Toll’s office is located is zoned Business-Professional-Office (BPO). Toll wants the P&Z to expand that BPO zone by about 1.17 acres.

A northward zone expansion would consequently reduce the amount of Toll land that is designated for Newtown Woods. The Newtown Woods site has Elderly Housing-10 (EH-10) zoning, which is land designated for high-density age-restricted housing projects.

The Toll office site is located on the southernmost section of a neck of land that extends southward from the Newtown Woods site.

Toll is seeking to expand the BPO zone as part of its plans to sell what would be about 2.6 acres to Maplewood at Newtown for commercial development.

Maplewood is a 100-unit assisted living complex at 166 Mt Pleasant Road.

Attorney Robert Hall, representing Toll, said that Toll’s temporary office permit expires in October and the company wants the P&Z to extend the permit, allowing the facility to remain in place until Newtown Woods is completed.

P&Z member Robert Mulholland explained that Toll had received a permit for the office in the past as a “temporary” office.

 

Opposition

Attorney Thomas Beecher, representing the homeowners’ association for Liberty at Newtown, said that the association objects to all four zoning proposals made by Toll.

Liberty residents want a buffer area to remain between the Liberty site and the Toll-owned property, and thus oppose any expansion of the BPO zone onto what is now land with EH-10 zoning, Mr Beecher said. Such land with new BPO zoning would be adjacent to the Liberty condo units, he said.

Increasing the area with BPO zoning would translate into a potentially more commercially intensive use of such land than would be possible under the area’s current zoning designations, he said.

All four zoning proposals from Toll should be rejected, Mr Beecher stressed.

Liberty resident Donald Leonard, of 38 Jo-Al Court, representing the association, told P&Z members that he has lived at the complex for eight years.

“We are concerned … We are strongly opposed to this application,” he said.

The Toll office that formerly had included a condo sales office now serves as a construction office, he said.

The temporary sales office permit should not be extended because the office no longer serves a sales office, he stressed. Expanding the area that has BPO zoning would result in an objectionable commercial land use being built adjacent to Liberty, he said.

“Enough is enough … Reject the application,” he urged.

Attorney Arthur Miller, representing Maplewood, said that after Maplewood buys the BPO-zoned land from Toll, Maplewood would submit a development application to the P&Z and also meet with neighboring residents to learn their concerns.   

Liberty resident Heidi Winslow, of 62 Jo-Al Court, told P&Z members that if the P&Z approves a change of zone to increase the BPO-zoned land in the area, it would result in dramatic adverse changes for Liberty residents.

Ms Winslow said the Toll facility next to the Liberty entrance amounts to a construction office and a billboard for Newtown Woods.

Toll, at times, posts many illegal signs on its property advertising its condo project, she added.

Liberty resident Anthony Salvato, 19 Franklin Court, said the presence of a new commercial building next to Liberty could damage his property’s value.

Liberty resident Mitchell Tschantz, 13 Franklin Court, also stressed his opposition to the Toll application.

Mr Hall, representing Toll, said that the BPO-zoned land would be “a prime spot for a medical office building” under the terms of the 2004 Town Plan of Conservation and Development.

In response, Mr Beecher, representing Liberty, said that an expanded BPO zone would have adverse effects on Liberty residents, in urging the P&Z to reject the four zoning proposals.

 

Discussion

In a discussion among P&Z members following the hearing, P&Z Chairman Lilla Dean said P&Z is under no obligation to expand the size of the BPO zone. Much medical office space already has been proposed for that area, she said.

P&Z has approved about five commercial projects for that area which remain unbuilt, she noted.

In a protracted discussion, P&Z members talked about the many aspects of Toll’s four zoning proposals, eventually deciding that they would address the issues again at an upcoming meeting, likely on August 1.

The 178-unit Newtown Woods project is planned to contain 67 dwellings within 19 multiple-unit two-story, townhouse-style buildings; 111 single-level dwellings within six large multistory buildings; a community clubhouse, a swimming pool, and bocce courts. All residential units would be offered for sale to people over age 55.

The 19 townhouse-style buildings would include two-, three-, and four-unit structures. Three of the large multistory buildings would have 17 units each, with the other three large buildings containing 20 units each.

Including the clubhouse, the site would hold 26 buildings that would enclose 202,800 square feet of floor space overall. All of the planned dwellings would have private attached garages.

The Toll Brothers project represents the fourth time since 1998 that various firms have sought to develop the former sand and gravel mine with a large-scale, high-density multifamily housing project for people over age 55. Three previous projects failed to materialize.

More stories like this: Newtown Woods, Toll Brothers, Liberty at Newtown
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