P&Z examines Ridge at Sawmill traffic impacts

The headline which ran with an earlier online version of this article incorrectly characterized that neighbors spoke in opposition of the project. The Shelton Herald apologizes for the error.

Questions about increased traffic took center stage during a zoning hearing for a proposed 89-unit apartment complex on Beard Sawmill Road.
Hawks Ridge Luxury Rentals wants to construct two apartment buildings on vacant land next to the Brightview senior living complex now nearing completion.
At the Planning and Zoning Commission’s Jan. 23 meeting, some members questioned developer traffic engineer Craig Yannes' conclusion the residential complex would be “a fairly low traffic generator” with “a negligible impact.”
Yannes said the apartments should lead to 32 new vehicle trips in the morning commute peak hour and 40 trips in the afternoon peak hour. Yannes said this is less than retail or office development would generate, and not much more than the 89 assisted living units previously approved for the site.

Member Charles Kelly said the most apartments would have two vehicles, with tenants heading to workplaces on weekday mornings, so the projected numbers don't make sense. “I just don't see where you got the information from,” he said.
Member Mark Widomski agreed with Kelly.
“The numbers just don’t add up,” he said, requesting details on the time of day and year the traffic counts were done for the developer’s report.
Widomski said while traffic experts for developers always claim their projects will add minimal traffic, the end result has been congestion. “Everyone sitting here lives this every day,” he said.
Members pointed out the nearby Bridgeport Avenue, Commerce Drive and Old Stratford Avenue area already is extremely busy during commuting times, with many people driving to and from Shelton for jobs.
Yannes agreed Bridgeport Avenue has heavy traffic but said his calculations are based on industry standards and were approved by state traffic officials. Developer A.J. Grasso said he was presenting expert evidence from a traffic engineer.
The apartments, to be called The Ridge at Sawmill, would occupy 3.8 acres of vacant land on the overall 41-acre Hawks Ridge property that also includes Brightview plus single-family homes and townhouses off Long Hill Cross Road.
The four-story apartment buildings would initially have 148 parking spaces, including 56 in garages below the structures, plus another 31 spaces that would be built in the future if the P&Z determines they are needed. There would be a shared driveway with Brightview.
More than half the apartments would be one bedroom and slightly less than one-third would be two-bedroom. A small number would be studios or one-bedrooms with den. All would have outdoor balconies.
Beard Sawmill can be accessed either off Old Stratford Road via Far Mill Crossing, or Bridgeport Avenue. Yannes said most apartment dwellers would use Far Mill Crossing to reach the Route 8 interchange.
Grasso stressed the 89 market-rate apartments would replace the 89 assisting living units already approved for the location as part of a Planned Development District (PDD). He said Brightview now isn’t interested in expanding to the apartment site and has a no-compete clause that prevents another assisted living use there.
“There’s virtually no opposition to this,” Grasso said. “It’s a fairly minor change.”
Hawks Ridge has created many construction jobs, boosted local suppliers, led to developer-paid road improvements on Long Hill Cross and Beard Sawmill, and turned mostly vacant land into a tax generator, according to Grasso. Once built, the apartments should generate $279,300 in annual property taxes, he said.
The same architect that designed Brightview has been hired for the apartment buildings so they “complement” the large assisting living facility next door, representatives said. Some apartments may be occupied by Brightview employees or relatives of those living at Brightview.
The apartments have received wetlands and sewer authority approval. The zoning hearing was kept open to Feb. 13 so the developer could provide additional information related to the traffic report.