Neighbors raise concerns about Carroll’s plan

Residents living near City Hall raised objections to plans for an apartment building on Coram Avenue that would be part of the redevelopment of the old Carroll’s Home Improvement store property.
A developer wants to create a Planned Development District to construct 63 apartments in two buildings on 0.97 acres between Coram and Howe avenues, bordering Hill Street. The development site includes the Carroll’s property plus two adjoining houses that would be demolished.
At the May 29 Planning & Zoning Commission meeting, nine neighbors on Coram and Prospect avenues pointed to concerns about height, density, small apartment unit size, parking, traffic and neighborhood quality of life.
Most expressed support for the project’s first phase, involving a combined retail and apartment building on Howe Avenue, while opposing the second phase on Coram.
The Coram Avenue structure would be five stories high but appear to be three stories from Coram due to elevation changes. The bottom two floors, at a lower grade, would be for parking.
Such a large building “is totally out of character with the existing neighborhood,” wrote Coram Avenue homeowner Judith Gura, in a letter read aloud by another neighbor at the meeting.
Krogen Correno, who lives next door on Coram, said a large apartment building would hurt the “peace and quiet” of a neighborhood with mostly single- and two-family homes.
Correno said a structure with a 30-car garage would be within a few feet of his house and cause noise and fire safety problems. Like others, he was worried about traffic safety at the Coram and Hill intersection and on-street parking availability on Coram with so many new residents.
Neighbor Peggy Corella called the four-way intersection at Coram and Hill, with stop signs in two directions only, “very dangerous.”
Robin Fazekas expressed alarm at the small size of some of the proposed studio apartments, asking they be made bigger, and Rich Norko said “our beautiful neighborhood [is] slowly being eroded.”
Gura, in her letter, said a similar project wouldn’t be allowed in Huntington or White Hills and the P&Z shouldn’t “discriminate against a downtown neighborhood.”
Neighbors also said Hill Street is difficult to go up in the winter due to its steepness and views of the river valley below would be blocked.
Developer representatives said the Coram building wouldn’t be much higher than nearby homes and would be shorter than the abutting church and City Hall.
“We believe it fits into the neighborhood,” architect Pat Rose said.
Developer engineer James Swift said a green border would exist between the Coram building and Correno’s adjacent house. Members asked for a 3D perspective of the proposed building on Coram with nearby homes and structures.
In a traffic review, Shelton police raised a number of concerns, including about cars pulling in and out of the proposed Hill Street driveway closest to Coram, part of phase two.
Developer traffic experts have suggested right-turn-only in and out of this driveway but police said that could be challenging in snow and rain due to the steep hill and sightlines. Police said accidents could increase at Hill Street intersections with Coram and Howe.
Member James Tickey said cars could back up on Hill Street at the Coram intersection during busy traffic times.
The developer’s engineer also suggested making the Coram and Hill intersection a four-way stop, which the police didn’t take a position on while noting it would slow traffic flow on Coram.
Police pointed to other high-density residential proposals in the immediate area and requested state traffic officials review the proposal.
Swift said the project is probably too small for a state review, but member Mark Widomski pushed for having additional analysis.
Widomski said traffic issues raised in the police report are very relevant to a downtown that already experiences gridlock. “This is what it should be based on, not someone punching numbers,” he said in reference to outside traffic experts.
Swift said he didn’t think the views of the developer’s traffic engineer and police were that different.
As for parking, the project would have a total of 69 surface and garage spaces plus six tandem spots. That’s more than is required downtown, where there must be one space per living unit. The project would have two driveways on Hill Street.
Widomski said having slightly more than one space per unit isn’t realistic because most apartments will have two cars. Member Elaine Matto agreed overflow parking would end up on nearby roads.
It was also pointed out apartment dwellers have visitors and no off-street parking would be provided for the planned retail space on Howe Avenue.
Phase one involves adding on to the existing Carroll’s building to create a four-story building with considerable ground-floor retail and 33 apartments.
Swift noted on-street parking is available on Howe, a large public lot is nearby, and the city plans to open a new lot across the street on Eversource property.
When asked, Swift said the developer would be comfortable with the P&Z voting on phase one and waiting to act on phase two so issues could be resolved. The P&Z indicated it would take this approach, essentially creating two different application processes.
Swift said the developer is “anxious” to begin the first phase, which should take about a year to complete.
The developer is Cedar Village Development LLC, based in Shelton. It is led by Don Stanziale Jr., who has met with concerned neighbors.
Carroll’s Home Improvement closed in 2014 after six decades in business.