The Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) has indicated in a “consensus” vote that it will support the Waters Edge condo and marina proposal for 500 River Road and 41 Fanny St.
But P&Z members want any public access to the 3.1-acre site to be off the main River Road (Route 110) entrance, and not Fanny Street.
The developer is on board with that approach — but it remains to be seen if state environmental officials will go along.
There still would be an emergency-only entrance off Fanny Street, but it would have a locked gate and couldn’t be accessed by the public or Waters Edge condo owners.
Many people who live on Fanny Street and nearby roads in the neighborhood — such as Anna Street, Victory Street and Jordan Avenue — are strongly opposed to creating a public access area to the riverfront at the end of Fanny Street, a cul-de-sac that borders the Housatonic River.
‘Public access point’
The original idea was to widen the Fanny Street cul-de-sac to enable a few vehicles to park so people could walk down to the riverfront on a new walkway.
But neighbors said this so-called “public access point” could become a gathering place, attracting party-goers as well as fishermen and others. They also worry about increased traffic.
“How comfortable will you be letting your children and grandchildren go outside to play in the cul-de-sac with strangers driving up and down to go fishing and boating in the public access?” a concerned neighbor asked the P&Z.
River Road entrance
The developer, Waters Edge of Shelton LLC, has since agreed to alter the plans so all public access would be off the main driveway to the development from River Road.
While there would be a gated entrance on River Road, people seeking public access could get the code from printed material — perhaps a sign — at that entrance, a developer representative said.
A few parking spaces could be created just off River Road, but outside the gate, so people could park and walk down to the development’s waterfront, or perhaps people could drive in the River Road entrance to access a few public parking spots close to the water.
It’s uncertain if the state will accept public access only from River Road. State officials want public access to new waterfront development sites as part of any water-dependent use.
Anthony J. Panico, city planning consultant, said the P&Z may have to do battle with the state on the public access component. “[State environmental officials] will have to be satisfied with an internal public access,” he said.
“I think we have a very strong argument,” advised Panico, because “the neighborhood expressed very clearly they don’t need it.”
He said when waterfront public access is created as part of private developments, the locations often are rarely used by the public.
Based on state requirements, Waters Edge will have three of its six boat slips available to the public, most likely with season-long leases. Each public slip will get a parking space within the development.
Formal approval to be drawn up
The 5-0 “consensus” vote on Waters Edge taken at the July 8 P&Z meeting indicates how members expect to vote on the application. The vote enables staff to draw up a formal approval to be voted on later, usually containing certain conditions that the developer would have to follow.
The developer is seeking a zone change to a Planned Development District. The project would create 14 condominiums and a six-slip marina with a small office and restroom.
An existing house at the end of Fanny Street would be used for two of the condo units as well as the marina facilities.
Many neighbors had objections to the development separate from the waterfront public access.
Concerns about neighborhood impact
Before the vote, several P&Z members expressed concerns about how creating public access off Fanny Street would impact the neighborhood.
A few questioned why public boat slips were needed at the marina, but it appears that is something the state is unlikely to be flexible on.
Member Nancy Dickal said having a small commercial marina doesn’t make sense to her. “I don’t see it being conducive to the neighborhood,” she said.
Chairman Ruth Parkins said mandating public access from Fanny Street may not be reasonable if nearby residents — presumably a prime beneficiary of such access — don’t want it.
Member James Tickey said creating public access on Fanny Street could lead to “a destination point” and be a burden on the neighborhood.
Another likely condition of approval will be to widen and upgrade the River Road driveway entrance before work can begin on the rest of the development, so all construction vehicles enter that way. This will involve widening the current driveway to 22 feet, among other improvements.