‘Ready to erupt’: Shelton P&Z says downtown parking at breaking point

Photo of Brian Gioiele
The dirt parking lot on the site of the former Chromium Process company site on Canal Street in Shelton, Conn., on Friday, March 18, 2022.

The dirt parking lot on the site of the former Chromium Process company site on Canal Street in Shelton, Conn., on Friday, March 18, 2022.

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — The proposed Chromium Process site development has cast a brighter light on the lack of available parking downtown, according to members of the Planning and Zoning Commission.

The commission, at its meeting Tuesday, discussed developer John Guedes’ plan to construct a four-story building with ground level retail and 30 apartments on the upper floors along with 34 parking spaces on the Canal Street property presently used for city parking.

And the thoughts from some commissioners was that this development, as proposed, does not have enough parking and officials must begin to examine how best to address the dwindling downtown parking overall.

“It’s a volcano ready to erupt,” commissioner Charles Kelly said.

The downtown parking talk began during a discussion on Guedes’ proposal for the former Chromium Process site, which is owned by the city but that he has agreed to purchase. The commission tabled further discussion on the plans until a later date.

Residents and even fellow developers have questioned Guedes’ plan in terms of available parking.

Angelo Melisi, developer of Bridge Street Commons I and II on Howe Avenue, says he supports continued downtown development but only if the parking provided is adequate to meet the need.

Commissioner Jimmy Tickey said there is no place to park now and losing the former Chromium Process site - which he says is filled every night - will only exacerbate an already difficult situation.

“Talk to the business owners - they say it. Folks need parking,” Tickey said. “And we have lost parking lots along the way, even if it was a small parking lot. We have lost five here, 10, 20 spaces over the course of the past few years.

“This commission would not want to compound the problem by adding more businesses,” said Tickey, adding that the lack of parking “hurts the entire downtown when there is not a good, safe, central place to park their car and walk around.”

Commissioner Ruth Parkins asked for the parking ratios for the Central Business District, in which this project would sit. But zoning consultant Tony Panico reminded the commission this site is a Planned Development District, which grants the commission the right to dictate the final parking requirements.

The Central Business District requires one space per unit for one bedroom and 1.5 spaces for two-bedroom units. Guedes’ proposal, under those guidelines, would require 38 spaces, according to the commissioners.

Guedes has stated numerous times that the spaces allotted are adequate considering that the Conti building’s lot, which is used for municipal parking, is only feet away from the development.

“I’m not opposed to this project, it is just short on parking,” Parkins said.

Parkins said it is not economically feasible, after the millions spent by the city and state to remediate the former Chromium Process site, to leave it as a parking lot.

“We all agree that this needs to be developed, but I want to see it developed with enough parking to accommodate the amount of cars,” Parkins added.

Parkins said the regulations state that if a developer does not have enough parking there is an option to lease spaces from the city, which she says the commission and city should begin to enforce as the parking situation tightens downtown.

“Whenever (the commission) began using one space per dwelling downtown, like 10 years ago, there was a lot more parking,” Parkins said. “We’re backing ourselves into a wall here with parking.”

Parkins said many lots that were used for off hours parking - such as the old Webster Bank that was recently redeveloped by Al DaSilva, and the lot across the street from Amici’s Restaurant that is now used solely for businesses and residents of the adjacent Howe Avenue buildings - are no longer available.

“The issue of parking needs to be pursued,” Panico said. “This needs to be thought out again by Planning and Zoning, and there needs to be more realistic standards.”

Kelly agreed but questioned that with all the recent developments allowed with similar parking ratios, whether it was appropriate to punish this applicant.

“That’s the benefit of the PDD. We get to decide,” Tickey responded.