Shelton may pause apartment developments

Photo of Brian Gioiele

SHELTON — New high-density development projects may be coming to halt for the time being.

The Planning and Zoning Commission, at its meeting Tuesday, set a public hearing for June 1 on whether to institute a temporary moratorium on “acceptance, review and approval of high-density residential projects.”

City corporation counsel Fran Teodosio told the commissioners that the zoning regulations need clarification regarding high-density developments - which include the apartment buildings cropping up throughout the city but mainly downtown.

“It’s a good idea to slow that down,” Teodosio said about these developments so the commission can reexamine its regulations.

“I’m not saying these are good or bad. This just offers a chance to talk about controls over this,” said Teodosio, who then told the commission this call comes from Mayor Mark Lauretti.

“There are too many requests for apartment complexes to be able to process in an orderly time frame as required under the statute,” Lauretti told Hearst Connecticut Media. “The city has to rethink its approach towards high density housing in a number of different locations throughout the city.

Lauretti said putting a hold on these types of developments “will not hurt us at all.”

Those opposed to additional high-density projects downtown have criticized what they say is a shortage of municipal parking to support the developments. Apartment projects are regularly approved with less than two parking spaces per unit.

But Lauretti called the idea that there is no or limited downtown parking “comical.”

“Twenty years ago, there was nothing downtown. No one was going there. There was blight, homelessness, dilapidated buildings. Now look at where we are,” Lauretti said. “This is all part of our growing pains. Every successful place has the same issues.”

Lauretti said his plan calls for a moratorium citywide, except for downtown, specifically the Canal Street area.

“All the downtown applications have onsite parking,” Lauretti said.

Lauretti also said that plans are in the works for a shuttle service, which would bring people to and from the Conti lot, which is used for municipal parking downtown. Also, while no plans are in the works now, a downtown parking garage is probably part of the city’s future, he said.

No final decisions - including if this would be for the whole city or just specific zones - have been made. The commissioners stated that they would discuss those options, along with the time period in which it will be in effect, after closing the public hearing.

Commissioner Ruth Parkins said certain districts could be excluded, if the commission agreed.

“We need to step back, take a deep breath, and look at the whole picture,” said commission chair Virginia Harger, adding that the commission constantly wrestles with the parking issue.

“We need the time to sit down and look at everything and make sure we are moving in the right direction for everyone,” she said. “We do not want to shortchange the city or the applicants. We want to be fair.”

Parkins said one concern is a flood of applications coming in prior to the start of any moratorium.

"While in some instances, such as PDDs (Planned Development Districts), the commission can use its discretion, those applications submitted in a timely manner must, by statute, be accepted and processed under current regulations,” Harger said.