Editor’s note: In the article we originally published in our Sept. 15 edition of the Shelton Herald, we listed the next public hearing to take place as Sept. 28, but the correct date is Sept. 21. at 7p.m. in the city hall auditorium.
Site attorney Dominick Thomas said if the city of Shelton wants to preserve a portion of the open space located within the 121-acre piece of land owned by Royal Wells, where developers want to build Towne Center at Shelter Ridge, then they’ll have to buy it.
Conservation Commission (CC) Chair Tom Harbinson wrote a letter to the Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission to be read at its Sept. 7 meeting. The letter voiced the board’s disappointment with the modified site plan as presented and said the developers hadn’t taken into consideration the CC’s initial concerns of the development’s effects on wildlife or the ongoing plans of the city.
“We know there’s going to be developments occurring on that site and that the PDD (Planned Development District) is the best way to achieve a thorough comprehensive development of that site but the PDD they presented is unacceptable to the Commission as it disregards all of the plans and documents that had been put forth over the years,” said Harbinson following the P&Z meeting.
Attorney Thomas said the only avenue available for the CC to preserve the 46 acres of green space the developer’s plan infringes upon, is through the Board of Aldermen and the use of a PDD.
“The city can, if it deemed it important through the use of eminent domain or through negotiations with the property owner, attempt to purchase that 46 acres, if that was their plan,” said Thomas.
The 46 acres in question makes up 38% of the 121 acres that would host the developer’s application.
Harbinson responded by agreeing with the positives that can be a result of a PDD, but also said that the values voiced in the letter do not only belong to the CC members.
“We hear what the residents are passionate about and they’re passionate about open space protection, they’re passionate about recreational opportunities, they’re passionate about the character of our community,” said Harbinson. “Certainly communities change over time, but there are some drastic impacts that would occur if the application is approved as presented. The Conservation Commission isn’t against development, but we certainly want to see quality development.
“All of the things people do enjoy shouldn’t be taken for granted, because they were achieved through long and hard effort, not only by Conservation Commission. We partnered with the Planning and Zoning commission to assure that open space was acquired in a coordinated way. We partnered with the Board of Aldermen to make sure the city had finances in place to support the purchases of open space. We coordinate with all of these agencies to have a collection of actions be greater than the sum of individual’s actions.”
Harbinson concluded by saying the CC is hopeful the P&Z commissioners will consider the environmental aspects that will be affected by the application if it is approved as is.
Attorney Thomas continued to stand behind the developer’s modified plan saying that it will increase the city’s tax revenue as well jobs through the creation of more retail space.
Members of the audience questioned the significance of the would-be created jobs given that they most likely be for part-time employees who are not owning property in Shelton.
P&Z commissioner Jimmy Tickey also questioned the developer’s marketing strategy when they mentioned they were targeting millennials with the new retail space. Tickey said he would be interested to see how their plan holds up given the increase in popularity of online shopping.
A member of the opposition to the application, Caitlin Augusta of Save Our Shelton, spoke at the most recent P&Z meeting on Sept. 7. According to Augusta, Facebook data revealed that over 20,000 individuals have visited their page to read information since it was created on April 1. 1,499 people have also liked the Facebook page to receive updates on the hearings.
The hearing is set to continue on Wednesday,Sept. 21 at 7pm in the Auditorium, where a peer review of the developer’s traffic report will be presented to the P&Z commission.