P&Z ready to deny 30-unit apartment plan

A proposal to build a 30-unit apartment building at Old Bridgeport Avenue and Sunwood Drive appears headed for denial, mainly due to density and traffic concerns.

The Planning & Zoning Commission reached an unanimous consensus to oppose the project by GNK LLC at the Dec. 11 meeting. A consensus is when P&Z members indicate how they will vote on an application in the future.

Member James Tickey said the proposed development is “a traffic generator” that would worsen nearby intersections on Bridgeport Avenue and have “a negative impact on nearby residents.”

“I believe it’s too dense,” said member Charles Kelly, pointing out there’s really only about an acre to work with due to an existing private road on the land and wetlands.

“That’s kind of ridiculous,” Kelly said of putting 30 units and a 63-space parking lot on the usable land.

Kelly noted a nearby apartment complex, approved by the P&Z but not built yet due to a legal challenge, has slightly fewer units on three acres.

The developer has applied to create a Planned Development District (PDD) to build a three-story building on a 1.9-acre parcel at 301 Old Bridgeport Avenue. The property previously housed a childcare center.

Old Bridgeport Avenue runs parallel to Bridgeport Avenue between the D’Addario auto dealership and the Wiffle Ball factory. The apartment entrance would actually be on Sunwood Drive, a private road off Old Bridgeport Avenue that leads to the Sunwood Condominiums.

Many condo residents spoke against the project during the application process, fearing more drivers would use the condo as a cut-through to reach Nells Rock Road. They also highlighted existing traffic congestion near Route 8’s Exit 13 interchange on Bridgeport Avenue.

Member Mark Widomski called the proposal “way too dense,” saying it could hurt nearby property values and the interests of people now living in the immediate area.

Widomski said traffic delays would  be increasing on Bridgeport Avenue due to other approved developments in the vicinity, including the massive Shelter Ridge retail, office and apartment complex. “We’re overloading that intersection,” he said of the Route 8 interchange.

Member Anthony Pogoda said existing traffic problems would be “exacerbated” and the Sunwood Condominiums shouldn’t have to consider installing an entrance gate because of a nearby development.

Pogoda also said the developer’s plan to put up signs to try to prevent vehicles from going through the condo complex wouldn’t work because drivers routinely ignore such signs.

City land-use consultant Anthony Panico said based on the property’s current Restricted Business District (RBD) zone, P&Z members should consider what else might be built at the site and the potential impact compared to 30 apartment units.

But members said they had strong feelings and would deal with another proposal when appropriate in the future.

“We’re discussing what’s on the table now,” Pogoda said.

The RBD zone would allow multi-family housing, offices, small manufacturing, limited retail, a restaurant, gas station and utility facilities, although Panico said some of those uses aren’t realistic.

Chairman Virginia Harger said while some of the possible RBD uses would “be a lot worse,” she wasn’t comfortable with the apartment proposal due to the high number of units being proposed.

“The applicant really needs to consider this number of units,” said Harger, in comments echoed by a few other members. They said a plan with fewer living units might be acceptable.

Member Elaine Matto said she doesn’t understand why the developer wants to change the zoning to a PDD rather than pursue housing as allowed under the RBD zone, but suspects a RBD requirement for more parking might be one reason.

Matto said Sunwood residents have “legitimate concerns” involving traffic and the safety of walkers inside the condo complex.