Fire access is issue for Shelton apartment plan

A developer wants to add three apartments on the second floor of a retail building at 140 Bridgeport Ave.

John Guedes, who developed the Birmingham on the River condo complex on Canal Street, is seeking zoning permission to create a Planned Development District (PDD) to allow for the residential units.

They would be built on the existing second floor of the structure that houses Chaves Bakery & Deli and Chaves Wine & Spirits, with no changes in the current building’s exterior size.

The building now is on a 0.7-acre lot that includes a separate driveway in the back from Long Hill Avenue. This driveway does not connect to the main entrance and parking lot on Bridgeport Avenue.

Now in two zoning districts

The property is in both commercial and residential zones, and the CB-2 commercial zone does not allow for residential uses.

The second floor was originally approved as attic space, then permission was sought and approved to use it for commercial use.

A personal fitness facility moved in but that business didn’t succeed in the location, said Dominick Thomas, attorney for Guedes’ 140 Bridgeport Ave. LLC entity during a Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) public hearing on the application.

Fire marshal concerns

Fire Marshal James Tortora has recommended against the project because the rear driveway “[does] not meet the requirements” of a fire lane.

In a letter, Tortora said the rear parking lot’s small size would limit the amount of emergency apparatus that could access the building, and it would be difficult to maneuver emergency apparatus once there.

He also said different apartments would be accessible from different sides of the building, fire trucks likely would have to back out of the rear driveway, and the rear driveway has a large hump where it meets Long Hill Avenue.

Thomas said the building has two routes of access so he is confused by the fire marshal’s concerns. He said some trees close to the rear driveway could be cut back to create more room for emergency vehicles to get in and out.

Front, rear lots

The retail outlets would continue to use the main entrance and parking lot in the front, while renters and visitors for at least two of the apartments would use the Long Hill Avenue driveway to access an upgraded rear parking lot.

The apartments would be about 1,200 square feet and limited to two bedrooms in size. The total number of parking spaces would be 39 spaces, with eight in the rear.

According to the proposed PDD, allowable uses for the first floor would be retail, food service with sit-down but no drive-thru, and business or professional offices.

The front lot has “amble parking” for retail uses, said Thomas, noting that no neighbors have opposed the proposal to date.

Thomas said the site is “on the edge of downtown” and pedestrian accessible, and therefore combining ground-floor retail and upper-floor residential is desirable.

“This is what you want,” he told the P&Z.

He said the property would be consistent with the neighborhood because it abuts “a very high density project” (Colonial Village), and would provide needed rental housing near downtown.

The public hearing on the application has been continued, and the proposal is likely to come up at the Sept. 9 P&Z meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. in the Shelton City Hall auditorium.