Howe Avenue rezone plan irks one property owner

The city has proposed rezoning these three lots - the vacant one in the center is owned by the city - from a commercial district to residential.

The city has proposed rezoning these three lots — the vacant one in the center is owned by the city — from a commercial district to residential.

Brian Gioiele / Hearst Connecticut Media

City officials are pushing to rezone three lots along Howe Avenue — between Maltby Street and the Route 8 corridor - and one of the property owners wants none of it.

The city has proposed the three lots, 248 to 260 Howe Avenue, be rezoned from a CB-2 to an R-3 zone, which, according to the application would bring the existing multifamily units into further compliance with zoning regulations and keep a commercial operation from entering the residential neighborhood.

Presently, two multifamily homes sit on either side of a vacant lot, which is owned by the city and on the market.

Kevin Lantowsky of Howard Avenue, a city fire inspector and self-proclaimed representative of the property at 248-250 Howe Avenue, right next to the Route 8 expressway, told the Planning & Zoning Commission, during the public hearing on this application Wednesday, Jan. 29, that the city’s desire to sell its lot is driving this rezone request to the detriment of the neighbors.

“By changing the zone, you would be affecting the other property owners negatively,” said Lantowsky, adding that the present owners of 248-250 Howe Avenue purchased the property less than a year ago with hopes of establishing some type of commercial operation.

Zoning consultant Tony Panico recommended the zone change from commercial to residential, in part, to protect the neighboring homeowners.

“The current (CB-2) zone is the most generous commercial zone in city,” said Panico, leaving the door open for a gas station or other similar commercial establishment to come in. “Things could go in that would not fit with the residential area yet are allowed as a matter of right.”

Panico said a residential zone would be more conforming to the street.

“Doing this (zone change) guards against potentially negative impacts that the commission would not be able to say no to that could possibly be totally out of character between the two homes,” added Panico.

Lantowsky said the owners of 248-250 Howe Avenue are considering a use that would comply with CB-2 zone.

“You are trying to take that opportunity away from me tonight so you can sell your piece,” said Lantowsky.

Lantowsky added that while there is a multifamily home on the property he represents, it “doesn’t mean that’s what we want to keep here.” He said that the area is not truly a residential neighborhood in the traditional sense, since the land is surrounded by the Route 8 corridor and Howe Avenue with a cliff for a backyard.

The commissioners closed the public hearing but made no decision on the city’s request. If approved, the commissioners told Lantowsky that he could file for a Planned Development District for the property, depending on the project that is being considered.

“Based on everything as it is today,” said Panico, “making this R-3 is the most logical way to proceed.”

The 0.15-acre property at 252-254 Howe Avenue was foreclosed on by the city years ago after a fire destroyed the multi-unit apartment structure that had since been razed. The site is located across from Wharf Street, or the Route 8 southbound exit ramp, and is located between two multifamily buildings. The Board of Aldermen approved putting the lot on the market in May.