River Road retail project: Neighbor to get fencing, trees

The Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) has approved changes in the Planned Development District (PDD) for a proposed retail project at 781-785 River Road, after an apparent agreement between the developer and an aggrieved neighbor.

“I am pleased to report we do have … an agreement,” James R. Swift, an engineer representing the developer, told the P&Z.

“A resolution has been reached,” agreed Dominick J. Thomas Jr., attorney for John Wardowski, the aggrieved adjoining property owner.

The P&Z voted unanimously to allow Bishop Development to alter the approved PDD border for the Route 110 parcel to reflect a land swap made with another neighbor. This would change the original PDD borders but not increase the parcel’s overall 1.1-acre size.

The developer also may shift the location of the proposed 5,800-square-foot retail building and parking lot up to 10 feet to the north to better fit the new property lines.

Will add fence and trees

The P&Z approval includes conditions requiring Bishop Development to install and maintain an eight-foot-high fence and row of trees on its property to serve as a buffer with Wardowski’s property on Turner Road.

The fence will have opaque slats and the trees will be about seven feet tall when planted. Shrubs also will added in some spots.

The landscaped, fenced buffer will run along most of the property line between the development and Wardowski’s property, with no slats in the fence in certain locations.

P&Z members raised concerns about the fence slats deteriorating over time, especially if they are made of wood.

Swift said the slats would be made of hard plastic, and the developer will replace them when needed in the future. The integrity of the fence and ground also would be checked regularly, perhaps on an annual basis, he said.

Other terms of the private settlement between Bishop Development and Wardowski were not released.

Controversial excavation

The 1.1-acre site is across the street from the Sports Center of Connecticut. Howard Soffan, owner of the Sports Center, is a principal of Bishop Development.

The project has been controversial because the excavation work created a significant ledge drop-off near Wardowski’s property, where his house is located.

At one point, a stop-work order was issued by the city because ledge removal was taking place on land that was outside the PDD border at that time.

More blasting necessary?

When asked at the P&Z meeting if any more blasting would be necessary, Swift said it’s unlikely but possible. He said some limited rock work at ground level also would be necessary to put in the building as well.

Swift said the idea of moving the project about 10 feet north is to “center” the building and lot between ledges. He said this would ensure the parking lot isn’t too close to ledge on either the north or south sides.

P&Z commissioners said falling rock could be a problem, and wire mesh may have to be added in the future if there are any issues with rock dislodging from the ledges.

Ruth Parkins, P&Z chairman, also asked the developer to stain the retaining walls that have been installed so they better match the surrounding rock in color.