There is an abundance of free parking in downtown Shelton, according to Mayor Mark Lauretti, contrary to belief.

Lauretti, now running for his 15th term as the city’s mayor, made these unscheduled remarks during the special Planning & Zoning Commission’s public hearing — at which commissioners held four separate public hearings on applications — on July 31.

The mayor said he had been characterized as whittling away at the number of public parking spots available in downtown Shelton. That criticism came after the developer of an office complex sought to gain access to 12 parking spaces that had previously been available to the public. But an abundance of free parking still exists downtown, Lauretti pointed out.

Moreover, he added that the presence of this new enterprise helps to both revitalize downtown and maintain the city’s enviably low tax rates.

“Downtowns are unique — and ours has evolved from an old mill town,” said Lauretti. “For a city to succeed, economic development needs to be in the lead, with government pointing the way. Shelton has consistently done that.”

Day Break Ridge proposal

On the commission’s business agenda, the Day Break Ridge condominium proposal at 85-97 River Road took up the largest share of time at the meeting. The proposal was first aired at the commission’s June 26 meeting, and in the interim its developers made a variety of changes requested at that initial hearing.

Of note, the developers presented a “Plan A” and a “Plan B” design, both of which eliminated a small unit at the end of the roadway inside the 36-unit condo complex. In Plan B, the developers proposed moving one of the complex’s larger sections away from the rock cut at the west side of the plateau-like ridge on which the units would be built.

Upon further study, however, both the developers and the commissioners noted that this multi-unit building would loom large above the backyards of the existing residences on River Road.

Several commissioners also expressed a dislike for the reconfigured size of that building. As proposed, it would encompass 12 condo units of varying sizes. Several commissioners thought that size was too big.

“I just don’t like that 12-unit building,” noted Commissioner Anthony Pogoda. Others suggested dividing that structure into two six-unit buildings. Doing so, however, would push the units closer to the rock cut — which, at the June 26 meeting, several commissioners called dangerous.

Dominick Thomas, the attorney for the developers, found all of this frustrating.

“Nobody with the right credentials has said that there is a danger in that rock cut,” Thomas said. “What I’m hearing now are aesthetic issues.”

The sole participant in the public comment portion of the meeting was James Mandell of 83 Richard Boulevard.

“We identified - and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has verified - that there is an American bald eagle nest on the [Day Break Ridge] property,” Mandell said. “The next nearest nest is in Torrington.”

Mandell said that the blasting that the development would entail is likely to disturb the eagle’s nest, and volunteered to meet with both DEEP and the developers to point out the nest. Thomas pointed out that the DEEP would take measures to ensure the matter is resolved in an environmentally-friendly manner.

Downtown apartments debated

The runner-up for discussion length was an application for apartments at 356-358 Howe Avenue, dubbed Riverwalk Place. The original, high-ceiling design for the complex called for three floors and a total of 25 apartments.

Under subsequent revisions, ceiling heights were trimmed and a fourth floor was added, bringing the total to 36. The developers also added two ground-floor retail spaces, in place of an extensive array of storage units for tenants.

“These changes were made to satisfy the lenders” for the building’s construction, noted project architect John Ruffalo.

The building would contain a mix of garage spaces and outdoor parking in sufficient numbers to accommodate all tenants. With a clearance of 10 and a half feet, the entry to the garage would easily accommodate most pickups, SUVs and minivans. A clearance bar would prohibit entry by taller vehicles.

The commissioners were most concerned about the layout of the building’s waste-disposal system, which would encompass an array of garbage chutes and a large, mobile dumpster. Several questioned whether the latter would be able to traverse a number of interior turns on the building’s lower level. This matter will be taken up at the commission’s Aug. 13 meeting.

Other business

The commission also heard from the developer of Vista Apartments, a proposed 26-unit building at 1039 Howe Avenue near where it becomes Leavenworth Road. At this time, the developer is applying to change only the zoning classification for the parcel from R-1 residential to CA-1, a zoning classification that permits apartment buildings.

The parcel adjoins an existing apartment building and the two structures would share a driveway onto Howe Avenue. That existing building has 14 apartment units.

Finally, Rob Scinto of developer R.D. Scinto, Inc., sought approval of a modification to the site plan at 899 and 905 Bridgeport Avenue, an office complex. The proposed modification would cover the addition of a daycare facility.

The proposed daycare provider wants to move to the building from its existing quarters in Trumbull. However, several commissioners noted that the revision has to be reviewed by the city’s fire marshal because it currently mandates truck egress on all sides of the facility and the daycare proposal would include an outdoor play space. Along with the other three proposals, this measure was adjourned for further discussion at the Aug. 13 meeting.