Putting a combined housing, condo and assisting living facility development on the 41-acre Wells property makes sense because there is no demand to build new, light industrial space in Shelton.
That was one of the arguments made by attorneys and other representatives for the proposed Hawks Ridge mixed-use project during a recent Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) public hearing.
Proponents also said Hawks Ridge would generate more tax revenue for the city than a new manufacturing or office building, while generating few school-age children because it would be a “luxury adult-oriented development.” The housing would not be age-restricted, however.
In addition, they said the residential part would be built to match the topography of the land, while a commercial project would require flattening much of the property for parking.
The plan calls for building 54 single-family homes, a 57-unit condominium/townhouse complex, and a 196-unit assisted living facility on land bordered by Long Hill Cross Road to the north, Route 8 to the east, and Beard Sawmill Road to the south.
The project would be close to Bridgeport Avenue but not fully abut it, due to the existing Wells Hollow Farm.
Conceptual plan for now
The developers are seeking conceptual approval to create a Planned Development District for the project. Specifics of the project would come later if the concept is approved.
The land now is zoned for light industrial use. The developer has a contingency deal to buy the land from the Wells family if zoning approval is granted.
A previous conceptual plan for a similar but slightly more intensive project on the property was withdrawn after it appeared the P&Z was opposed to the idea.
The public hearing ended after the developer’s presentation, allowing no time for extensive questions by P&Z members or any public input. The hearing will continue on Feb. 11.
Some members of the public are expected to speak out against the project due to environmental, traffic and other concerns.
The developer had specialists in real estate, engineering, traffic, architecture, and residential construction speak during its presentation.
Project attorney Dominick J. Thomas said there are many vacant light industrial buildings and undeveloped lots in Shelton, and existing space can be purchased for much less than is required to construct new, light industrial space.
In the past decade, only three permits have been issued for new light industrial projects citywide in Shelton, Thomas said.
“Leaving the property as [light industrial] is not something this commission should even consider,” Thomas said.
Stephen R. Bellis, another project attorney, said based on the condition of today’s office market, the city would “be foolish” to wait for someone to build “fancy offices” on the property.
Claim: Would be few children
Bellis said single-family homes at Hawks Ridge should attract couples with grown-up children while the townhouses would be favored by young professionals priced out of more affluent Fairfield County towns.
He said there’s no doubt the assisted living facility would fill a need. “The population is getting older,” Bellis said.
Thomas predicted Hawks Ridge would generate a net $724,000 in annual tax revenue for the city, after deducting the cost of new municipal services.
Proponents said Hawks Ridge would be like other successful Shelton residential developments in recent years, such as Heritage Pointe, Four Winds, Cranberry Estates, Wells Spring, and Avalon Huntington.
Consistent with master plan?
Bellis said the plan is consistent with parts of the city’s master plan (Plan of Conservation and Development) because it would help the tax base, provide an alternative to putting individual houses on large lots, and serve “active adults.”
He said Shelton has adequate sewer capacity and the roads would be private, so the city wouldn’t be responsible for road maintenance, snow removal or trash removal.
A.J. Grasso of Shelton-based Prestige Builders said the project would create construction jobs for many local people. He said the roads and homes would be heavily landscaped to create buffers with neighboring properties.
Residences would be “upscale” and 1,800 to 2,400 square feet in size, Grasso said. They would be built in stages, and it could take up to a decade to finish them all, he said.
The assisted living facility would be 52,000 square feet and three stories high, with separate areas for the different stages of aging.
Thomas said Hawks Ridge would create up to 300 permanent jobs within a decade, mostly at the assisted living facility. He said Hawks Ridge residents would boost nearby businesses with their spending, leading to an economic multiplier effect that would create wealth in the community.
Proponents also said residential housing can “co-exist” well with nearby corporate and retail development, noting that such mixed uses on properties are not uncommon in Shelton, including in locations near the Wells property.