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Year In Review: 2017 Saw Several Major Developments Approved

Published: December 31, 2017

As 2017 was coming to a close, the town received a proposal for a major mixed-use project in a heavily traveled area where its developer wants to build 224 rental apartments with a clubhouse for tenants, a shopping center, a medical/dental office building, and a restaurant.

If failed past proposals to develop the 35-acre site at 79 Church Hill Road are any indicator, the pending application for Hunters Ridge from 79 Church Hill Road, LLC, of Trumbull may face opposition from nearby residents as the project is reviewed by multiple town agencies. The site is near Exit 10 of Interstate 84.

Not only would the project be one of the largest residential complexes in town, it is notable in terms of the proposed diversity of uses. The developer is seeking approvals under the terms of the Planning and Zoning Commission’s (P&Z) Incentive Housing-10 zoning regulations. Those zoning rules allow high-density multifamily projects, provided that at least 20 percent of the dwellings are designated as affordable housing and are available to income-eligible people at rental rates much lower than market rates. As an incentive to have a developer create affordable housing, a commercial component is allowed by the zoning regulations.

Local agencies that would review the project to varying degrees starting in January would include the P&Z, Inland Wetlands Commission, Aquifer Protection Agency, Water & Sewer Authority, Board of Selectmen, and the Traffic Authority.

As the Hunter Ridge project enters land use review, another IH-10 multifamily project was under construction in Hawleyville, off Covered Bridge Road. Plans call for 180 rental apartments and a clubhouse. Construction of a diner and a church also are planned. That site is near Exit 9 of I-84.

In February, the Borough Zoning Commission (BZC) approved a special permit and a site development plan for Rochambeau Woods, a controversial 29-unit condominium complex planned for a 29-acre site at 41, 43, 45, and 47 Mt Pleasant Road, near Taunton Lake.

Rochambeau Woods is the largest residential project approved for the borough in many years. The project’s future though was cast in doubt in March when an adjacent property owner appealed the BZC’s approval of the condo complex, suing the BZC and the developer to stop the project. The lawsuit is pending in Connecticut Superior Court in Danbury.

In October, the BZC unanimously approved a 72-bed assisted-living complex for a 3.97-acre site at 37 Church Hill Road, known as Church Hill Village.

The planned 12-building complex of interconnected structures is planned for what is now a wooded lot on the eastern corner of Church Hill Road and The Boulevard. The project would be the first assisted living complex in the borough.

Church Hill Village would house elderly people generally over age 75 who require assistance with the activities of daily living, including some nursing care. Last spring, at the developer’s request, the BZC created zoning regulations that would allow an assisted living complex in the borough, provided that the applicant meets the terms of those zoning rules. Senior Lifestyle, a Chicago-based corporation in the elderly housing industry, would operate the facility.

Jean St Jean, who had worked for decades as the borough’s zoning enforcement officer, retired from that post in July. Maureen Crick Owen, who was elected as a selectman in November, is now the borough’s zoning enforcement officer.

 

St Rose Church

In March, the BZC approved St Rose Church’s plans to construct a one-story, 2,100-square-foot building on the campus to be used by FAITH Food Pantry, a local charity that distributes free food to needy local families. The structure is under construction in the area near the Knights of Columbus building. The food pantry, which formerly was housed in the basement at the now-closed St John’s Episcopal Church in Sandy Hook Center, is currently temporarily located in industrial space at 31 Pecks Lane.

In April, BZC approved plans to expand St Rose Church, as well as make some adjacent landscaping, pedestrian, and traffic improvements at the 46 Church Hill Road church campus.

 

More Development

In July, P&Z members unanimously approved a special zoning permit for the construction of a child day care center at 2 Saw Mill Road in Hawleyville, which would serve up to 210 young students. Most of the discussion among P&Z members on the project concerned the hazards involved with motorists exiting the western leg of Saw Mill Road to enter its offset four-way intersection with Mt Pleasant Road and Hawleyville Road. Access to the planned facility would be at Saw Mill Road.

Notably, traffic exiting Saw Mill Road is controlled by a stop sign, while the three other legs of the intersection are controlled by a traffic signal.

The project would combine 16,788 square feet of new construction on two levels with an existing 2,514-square-foot 1779 house at the site for an overall 19,302-square-foot facility. A 48-space parking lot would be constructed at the 1.9-acre site.

Also in Hawleyville, in July, following 11 weeks of regulatory review, the IWC approved a wetlands/watercourses protection permit for an industrial firm that wants to expand its business at a site with some swampy areas. IWC members unanimously approved the permit for Hilario’s Service Center, Inc, 131 Mt Pleasant Road (Route 6), which operates heavy wreckers and also repairs commercial vehicles.

IWC members placed many conditions on the permit, noting the construction area’s proximity to wetlands. Hilario’s is expected to submit an application for a special permit for the project to the P&Z.

In October, P&Z members unanimously approved three development applications from a local nonprofit organization that plans to construct an animal sanctuary at a 34-acre site off Old Farm Road at Fairfield Hills.
After conducting public hearings on the three applications submitted by The Catherine Violet Hubbard Foundation, Inc, the P&Z approved creation of a new land use zone known as the Animal Sanctuary Design District (ASDD); approved a change of zone for the 34-acre site from M-5 (Industrial) to ASDD zoning; and also approved a detailed site development plan and master plan for the project.

The planned facility is intended to memorialize Catherine, a first-grader who was one of the 26 people killed at Sandy Hook School on December 14, 2012. The young girl’s love of animals is the concept underlying the project. In 2013, the state donated the agricultural acreage to the foundation, which had expressed its intention to create an animal sanctuary. In June, the IWC approved a wetlands/watercourses protection permit for the animal sanctuary. The project would be constructed in stages.

In July, P&Z members unanimously approved Turkey Ridge, a controversial planned 11-lot residential subdivision at a 28.5-acre site on the northern corner of Toddy Hill Road and Turkey Roost Road. The P&Z’s approval followed responses made by the applicant’s civil engineer to the many technical criticisms of the project lodged by a civil engineer, who had been hired by a group of nearby residents opposed to the subdivision proposal. Many of those criticisms involve stormwater control.

The project’s applicant was the Bridgeport Roman Catholic Diocesan Corporation of Trumbull, which then owned the site. The developer and current site owner is Viade Development, LLC, of Woodbridge.

P&Z approved the project under the terms of the “open space conservation subdivision” (OSCS) regulations which are designed to maximize the amount of undeveloped open space land at a residential subdivision of single-family houses. As planned, more than 15 acres at the site is designated as open space.

The OSCS rules require that at least 50 percent of a site be preserved as open space. In conventional subdivisions, a minimum 15 percent of a parcel must be designated as open space.

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