Shelton developer’s request on hold while negotiations continue

A developer seeking to slightly change the boundaries of a retail project under construction at 781-785 River Road explained the desired alterations during a recent Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) public hearing.

Bishop Development wants to change the approved Planned Development District (PDD) border for the Route 110 parcel to reflect a land swap made with a neighbor.

James R. Swift, an engineer representing the developer, explained that a strip of land to the north has been acquired while an equal-size strip of land to the west has been transferred to the neighbor.

This would change the original PDD borders but not increase the parcel’s overall size. It would alter where the excavation work takes place.

Excavation work done off-site

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 developer also hopes to move the 5,800-square-foot building and parking lot about 10 feet north to better fit the new property lines.

The project has been controversial because the excavation work has created a significant ledge drop-off near another neighbor’s property line.

A stop-work order was issued by city zoning staff on excavation work because it was being done outside the PDD.

Negotiations are ongoing between parties

Much of the hearing focused on the status of private negotiations between the developer and the aggrieved property owner, John Wardowski of Turner Road, to reach a settlement.

Swift said the developer has put up a chain-link type fence on its land close to the drop-off near Wardowski’s property, and is willing to add significant landscaping as a buffer.

The fence has been put up partly as a safety issue because of the steep drop-off, at the request of city staff.

Swift said the developer would be willing to put up a taller, opaque fence, if desired by Wardowski or the P&Z.

Attorney: Work had 'financial impact'

Attorney Dominick J. Thomas Jr., representing Wardowski, said the goal is to resolve the situation without litigation but that his client needs to be treated fairly.

In addition to creating a proper visual and safety buffer, that may include compensation due to “the financial impact on [Wardowski’s] property value,” Thomas said.

“The developer took action to move the edge closer to my client’s property,” Thomas said of blasting.

Thomas, who said the negotiations have taken “several twists and turns,” expressed concerns about changing the PDD borders “because it will be significantly closer” to Wardowski’s land.

'We all want to resolve this'

Soffan was hopeful a settlement could be reached in the coming weeks. “We all want to resolve this,” he told the P&Z.

P&Z Chairman Ruth Parkins said she thinks Wardowski has been “extremely reasonable,” based on what has occurred.

“It’s an unfortunate situation that you created,” P&Z member Thomas McGorty said to the developer.

Public input is offered at meeting

Joan Flannery, a former P&Z member, said the developer should be forced to fill in land and replant trees where the non-approved excavation work took place.

The excavated ledge and retaining walls could begin to fall apart in the future, Flannery warned.

Joe Nechasek, who lives in the area, called what has taken place “a rape of the land” and “a degradation.”

Could incorporate settlement terms

Any nonfinancial terms of a settlement between Wardowski and the developer, such as landscaping and fencing, might be incorporated into a P&Z decision on changing the PDD borders.

The P&Z kept the public hearing open to possibly consider some of these settlement issues when deciding the developer’s request. The hearing will continue on Feb. 11.