Shelter Ridge plan public hearing Nov. 21

Photo of Brian Gioiele

The public will again have its say on the controversial Towne Center at Shelter Ridge plan next week when the Inlands Wetlands and Watercourses Commission continues its public hearing on the 121-acre mixed-use development fronting Bridgeport Avenue and Mill Street.

The wetlands public hearing is set for 7 p.m. Thursday in the City Hall auditorium. The development plan — a source of significant opposition that led to the 2016 creation of Save Our Shelton — has been winding through city zoning commissions and courthouses for more than three years.

“If we look back three-and-a-half years, (the Shelter Ridge plan) is a wetlands application that (has) still not been finished,” said Greg Tetro, one of the founders of SOS, during the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting last week. “It is a Planning and Zoning approval without a wetlands application even submitted.”

The Shelter Ridge Planned Development District request was originally approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission in 2017, but that ruling was appealed in court. In September, a judge ruled in favor of the Planning and Zoning Commission, but John and Judith Tillman — the couple that appealed the P and Z approval — filed a motion on Oct. 17 to reargue the judge’s decision.

The judge, in the case of John Tillman and Judith Tillman vs. The Shelton Planning and Zoning Commission, originally dismissed the couple’s appeal, stating that the “plaintiffs have failed to establish that the decision was illegal or contrary to law, the commission acted arbitrarily or in abuse of discretion, or that the decision was not supported by substantial evidence.

“This court concludes that the commission’s determination on the issues of environmental and traffic impact are supported by substantial evidence,” the ruling further stated.

The motion to reargue is the latest step in a process that began more than two years ago. After six public hearings, with hundreds of people voicing opposition, the Planning and Zoning Commission approved the PDD and zone change for the Towne Center at Shelter Ridge development at its March 7, 2017, meeting.

The commission approved the plan by a 4-2 vote, with commissioners Ruth Parkins, Virginia Harger, Ned Miller and Elaine Matto voting in favor and Jimmy Tickey and Anthony Pagoda Jr. voting against it.

The Shelton Ridge proposal would sit on 121 acres fronting Bridgeport Avenue and Mill Street. The Tillmans’ property abuts a portion of the site. According to the plans, Shelter Ridge would be a long-term project that encompasses both residential units and retail space: 375 “upscale” apartments and 300,000 square feet of retail space.

Residents spent months voicing concerns about the possible negative effects of the plan, saying that the Shelton Ridge development and zone change would result in an increase in the volume of traffic the city currently experiences, increase an already high density of rental housing, result in blasting and construction for up to 10 years and pollute the Mill River as well as the habitat of local wildlife.