P&Z OKs development’s first phase

Plans to redevelop the long-vacant Carroll’s Home Improvement site have earned the city’s blessing.

The Planning & Zoning Commission, at its regular meeting Tuesday, July 9, unanimously approved phase one of Cedar Village, which focuses on developing the portion of the property at the corner of Hill Street and Howe Avenue.

According to the commission’s approval, Cedar Village Development LLC’s phase one plan is “consistent with the ongoing downtown planning and revitalization efforts.”

“On a positive note, it is great to see the economic development move closer to Route 8 along that road,” said Commissioner Jimmy Tickey. “And what a great asset this will be compared to what we have seen the last several years with an empty Carroll’s building; so welcome the economic development, really the storefronts and retail - good retail people can enjoy downtown.”

“I like the project,” said Commissioner Mark Widomski, adding that parking, which he focuses on in these types of downtown proposals, would not be an issue with the planned municipal lot across the street from the new building.

Phase one calls for a four-story, mixed-use building with street-level commercial and retail space and 33 residential studio and one-bedroom apartments on the three stories above the ground level. There will be on-site parking for 33 cars in the rear, accessible from Hill Street.

In its resolution, the commission stated that phase one was “consistent with the continuing pattern of mixed, street-level retail/commercial development with residential rental apartments on the upper floors in the downtown area.”

The commission also stated that the “parking demands and projected traffic will not overload available and proposed municipal parking facilities and the street circulation system in the area. Additional municipal parking facilities are being created in the immediate area, directly across Howe Avenue from the (project), and adequate parking should be available for the commercial/retail activity as well as peak, off-hour residential needs.”

In obtaining approval for phase one, developers agreed to return with a revamped phase two, which would cover the remainder of the property,. The phase two plan called for a multi-story building at the corner of Hill Street and Coram Avenue, with three floors of residential totaling 32 apartments above two levels of structured parking for 36 vehicles.

But commissioners and residents voiced concerns about phase two during the public hearing process relative to density, building size and mass, on-street parking issues, traffic impacts, inconsistency with the area’s character, and potential negative impacts from the proposed Hill Street vehicular access.

The commission stated the developers have agreed to redesign phase two to satisfy neighborhood and commission concerns. Those plans would have to be resubmitted for a public hearing.

“Any action taken on phase one will in no way be any commitment on a future phase two proposal,” stated the commission’s resolution.