Shelton neighbors blast 26-home plan as 'overdevelopment'

Neighbors are questioning the density of a proposed 26-home development at Perry Hill Road and Walnut Avenue, and how it might impact their quality of life.

“It’s overdevelopment,” said Ken Huzi, who collected signatures in the neighborhood against the Perry Hill Estates plan. Huzi said it represents “high density housing” that could be “a life-changing event” for neighbors.

Residents are worried about potential problems with wells and septic systems, particularly if any blasting takes place. They also spoke about drainage and traffic.

Theresa Newell of Walnut Avenue said traffic now can back up from Perry Hill School to Walnut Avenue, and more cars would create “a horror show.”

Another resident called Perry Hill Road “a windy, hilly street” that already is “a nightmare.”

Zone change concerns

Neighbors are concerned about changing the zone. Most of the land now is zoned for one-acre lots (R-1), with a small portion zoned for half-acre lots (R-2).

Frank DeAngelo of Walnut Avenue said that while the developer may do quality projects, changing the R-1 and R-2 zones would set a precedent.

Neighbors worry the nearby Highland Golf Club could be developed into homes in the future.

Dominick Thomas, the developer’s attorney, insisted the proposal didn’t represent “that big of a change” from the current zoning.

Thomas described the site as a “transitional zone” that is close to a golf course (he called that a commercial use) and school. He said Perry Hill Estates would ensure the land is used for single-family residential use.

Barbara Smith of Walnut Avenue said she likes the privacy of the area now. “What’s going to happen to our wildlife?” she asked.

Huzi pushed to keep the public hearing open, and the P&Z decided to do that. The hearing will continue on Wednesday, Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. at City Hall, when additional comments from the public and developer will be allowed.

Now two parcels

S&G of Shelton, affiliated with developer Ben Perry, is seeking a zone change to create a Planned Development District (PDD) for the “cluster” housing development at 88-94 Perry Hill Road. Two parcels would be combined to create 13.5 acres.

The 26 homes would be unattached and individually owned but part of a common-interest community with an association to oversee the private roads and some common land areas, including two detention ponds to handle water runoff.

There would be 15 three-bedroom homes and 11 two-bedroom homes. Thomas said the development should attract empty nesters, and swimming pools and outdoor play equipment would be banned.

The developer is offering to give a 20-foot strip to adjoining property owners on Walnut Avenue to help create a buffer. Some of those homes predate zoning and are close to the current property line.

The developer is open to having restrictions placed on this donated buffer land to prevent people from building on it in the future.

The development’s main entrance would be on Perry Hill Road, with an emergency-access-only entrance on Walnut Avenue. The developer’s traffic expert said work could be done to improve sight lines on Perry Hill Road.

Parking, emergency vehicle access

P&Z members said street parking in the development could be a problem, so designated overflow parking areas might have to be added.

Questions were raised about whether large fire vehicles could gain access to a few homes, due to dead-ends and a cul-de-sac.

The city engineer opposes the project because of concerns with density, increased runoff, road steepness, dead-ends, and sight lines on Perry Hill Road.

The project has received Inland Wetlands Commission approval.

How many lots under current zoning?

James Swift, the developer’s engineer, said at one point that 11 homes could be built on the site under current zoning and wetlands rules.

However, Thomas later said from 15 to 20 might be possible, and he would argue the entire property should be rezoned for half-acre lots.

Huzi disagreed. “Eleven homes — that’s their right,” he said.

P&Z alternate Frank Osak questioned why the developer was trying to get more homes than would be allowed by current zoning rules, and why it was being called a “cluster” development.

Thomas said more land would remain undeveloped under this plan, with a private association paying for the upkeep. “You frankly will get more homes,” he said of the PDD approach being pursued.

Swift said almost half the 13.5 acres would become “common open space” owned by the association.

Blasting, subdivision rules

As for blasting, Thomas said no blasting is expected, but some excavation work involving ledge might take place on the Walnut Avenue emergency-only entrance.

Swift said, “We can never promise there won’t be blasting.”

Bill Dyer of the city Conservation Commission said the plan doesn’t meet the requirements of a PDD, and if it’s approved, no one would pursue a traditional subdivision anymore.

He pointed out that a PDD doesn’t mandate any open space set-aside, unlike a subdivision. “And the city gets nothing but school kids,” Dyer said.