Residents oppose Bridgeport Avenue development plan
Several residents —including two aldermen — were sharply critical of the proposed development of the former PerkinElmer and Panolam site on Bridgeport Avenue.
The plan — which was the subject of a Planning & Zoning Commission public hearing Wednesday, Oct. 23 — calls for a mixed-use planned development district, including 340 apartments, at 710 Bridgeport Avenue. The developer, AA Shelton Investor, LLC, is seeking a zoning change to permit housing at the site, which is currently zoned solely for business and industrial purposes.
“The Bridgeport Avenue corridor has long been for our industrial community, and each apartment that replaces an industrial property (there) represents a loss of jobs for the city,” said Long Hill Avenue resident and Board of Aldermen President John Anglace, Jr.
Anglace also noted that when developments involve zoning changes, the commission is the ultimate authority over their approval or denial.
“Such a matter is subject to your discretion,” Anglace said. “If it doesn’t make sense, you don’t have to okay it.”
Another alderman who spoke against the proposal was Eric McPherson, whose district includes downtown Shelton.
“This project takes away from what we are trying to accomplish downtown,” McPherson said. “It also strays from our city’s master plan.”
Pine Tree Hill Road resident Paul Simpson pointed out that as a Panolam employee, he sees significant truck traffic. That should make the site undesirable for apartment dwellers, especially those with kids.
“The blasting that is necessary (for the construction to move forward) is also a big concern,” said Simpson.
“If we can just change a zone at will, what’s the point in having zoning?” asked L’Hermitage Drive resident Jan Girard.
Prior to the public comments, the plan’s supporters presented detailed arguments in favor of the project. Key favorable elements they cited were the growing popularity of apartment occupancy among both millennials - people aged 21 through 39 - and the older Generation X and baby boomer generations. The latter have tired of home ownership, with its time-consuming responsibilities, said Stan Gniazdowski, president of Realty Concepts, a real estate analytical firm located in Guilford.
“People’s lifestyles are driving apartment demand and baby boomers are the fastest growing segment of renters,” said Gniazdowski, adding that Shelton and the rest of eastern Fairfield County have become popular because rents there are affordable in comparison to rents in more westerly towns such as Stamford and Norwalk.
The development would have a minor impact on traffic in the area, said Dave Sullivan, manager of the traffic engineering group at Milone & MacBroom, a Cheshire-based civil engineering firm.
“That’s because everybody doesn’t have the same schedule and the same traffic patterns,” Sullivan said.
The measure’s supporters also said the development would have a negligible impact on the city’s fire and emergency medical services departments. Both are staffed predominately by volunteers. This finding drew criticism from several commissioners.
“You don’t see an impact among baby boomers, who are likely to make more EMS calls?” asked Commissioner Mark Widomski.
“I don’t know where you get such small numbers with 300-plus apartments going in,” said Commissioner Charles Kelly.
The public hearing on this proposal was ultimately continued to the next P&Z meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 12.
Commissioners also voted to continue a public hearing on the plans for construction of a five-story building at 502 Howe Avenue in downtown Shelton. The site is the current home of downtown’s Webster Bank branch, which would be razed. There would be a storefront on the first floor of the proposed building and the remaining four floors would consist of one- and two-bedroom studio apartments.
The commission, by a 5-1 (Widomski was opposed) vote, approved The Crossroads, a senior complex on Long Hill Avenue that will consist of 15 duplex homes.