Hawk's Ridge: Housing moves forward on Shelton project, but assisted living part doesn’t

A conceptual image of a multifamily townhouse that also was submitted as part of the proposal by the developer,
A conceptual image of a multifamily townhouse that also was submitted as part of the proposal by the developer,

The Hawk’s Ridge developer has received approval to move forward with the residential part of the project despite the fact that no specific plan for an assisted living facility will be forthcoming soon, as was originally required.

Some Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission members now are wondering if the assisted living facility will be built.

“Who knows if the assisted living facility will ever materialize?” said P&Z Chairman Ruth Parkins.

Last week, the commission approved the final site plan for 110 residences at the 41-acre property, which is behind Wells Hollow Farm and between Bridgeport Avenue and Route 8. This will include 50 single-family homes and 60 townhouse condominium units, which is one fewer living unit than in the initial concept plan.

With some reluctance, the P&Z also voted to extend the deadlines for the developer to submit plans for a proposed 196-unit assisted living facility. The first stage of these plans now is due by Sept. 1 of this year.

Originally, the assisted living plans were to be submitted within 90 days of the residential plans to guarantee both aspects of the project would be built.

'Financial backing' is a factor

Stephen R. Bellis, attorney for Hawk’s Ridge of Shelton LLC, told P&Z members the original deadline could not be met because the company that was to build the assisted living facility has backed out.

While the interested party had shown “great interest” in the project, Bellis said, “unfortunately, he couldn’t get the financial backing he needed to do it.”

Hawk’s Ridge LLC will construct the residential part but intends to sell the assisted living facility site to an outside company that would build it.

Bellis said the assisted living facility part is “still being marketed” and there “is a lot of interest but no contract.”

A package deal?

This appeared to upset some P&Z members, who had viewed the residential and assisted living facility as a package deal when they approved a Planned Development District (PDD) and rezoned light industrial land last year for the Hawk’s Ridge project.

The assisted living facility was seen as a creator of permanent jobs that wouldn’t utilize many city services or create significant traffic.

When P&Z member Nancy Dickal asked what would happen if the assisted living facility were never built, Bellis responded that based on previous P&Z action on the PDD, “nothing can be done [there] but an assisted living facility.”

Parkins: ‘It was a joint project’

Parkins called the assisting living facility “a major component” and “one of the selling points” of the overall project. “There was a reason for the 90 days. … It was a joint project,” said Parkins, who was the only P&Z member to oppose the Hawk’s Ridge PDD. Parkins also voted against extending the 90-day deadline last week.

P&Z alternate Frank Osak said the assisted living facility “was the driving force” behind the overall project, and the lack of such a facility would represent “a substantial difference” from what was presented and approved in the PDD process.

Bellis saw things differently. “I don’t think one was predicated on the other,” he said.

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P&Z member Thomas McGorty agreed with Bellis, saying he didn’t view the proposed assisted living facility “as a selling point” to balance the residential part of the project.

Parkins was concerned the developer might eventually claim “no market” exists for an assisted living facility at the site, and try to use that land in another way — such as another “100 units of housing.”

Parkins' comment was a reference to claims by Hawk’s Ridge attorneys that there wasn’t a strong market in Shelton for light industrial-zoned land, when they were seeking to have most of the property rezoned for residential use.

Loan payment is 'motivator'

Bellis countered that Hawk’s Ridge LLC will pursue the assisted living facility plan because it needs to generate the funds to pay off a loan payment from buying the overall 41-acre property from the Wells family.

Dominick Thomas, another Hawk’s Ridge attorney, said the “substantial” loan payment that is due serves as “a tremendous motivator” to sell the land for its intended use.

The adjustment by Hawk’s Ridge also concerned Anthony Panico, the city’s P&Z consultant.

Panico said the assisted living facility would now “lag the rest of the development significantly.” The goal was to keep the project’s two parts “moving forward together,” he said.

Bellis responded it will take five years to complete the residential part, which will be built in phases. “I don’t think it’s going to significantly lag,” he said of an assisted living facility.

Road upgrade

The Hawk’s Ridge site abuts Route 8 (close to Exit 12), Long Hill Cross Road and Beard Sawmill Road, and is near Bridgeport Avenue.

As part of the project, the developer will make improvements to Long Hill Cross Road and will swap 0.91-acre parcels with an adjoining commercial property owner on Long Hill Cross Road (Honey Cell, a packaging manufacturer).

The new housing at Hawk’s Ridge will be accessed by two new roads off Long Hill Cross Road. The proposed assisted living site is off Beard Sawmill Road.