Should the Hawks Ridge development have a ‘through’ road or not?

The issue of whether a “through” road to connect Long Hill Cross Road and Beard Sawmill Road should be built as part of the proposed 41-acre Hawks Ridge development was one of the main issues discussed at a public hearing Wednesday night.

The Conservation Commission has raised concerns about constructing such a “through” — or connector — road.

“It would be preferable from an environmental standpoint not to build this road since it would increase the site disturbance,” wrote Thomas Harbinson, Conservation Commission chairman, in a letter to the P&Z that was entered into the hearing record.

The alternative would be to not connect the entry roads for the housing part of the development off Long Hill Cross Road, and for the assisted living facility off Beard Sawmill Road.

Even the developer is indicating they now favor that approach.

“We’re thinking of eliminating that connection,” said Joseph C. Balskus, an engineer with Tighe & Bond who specializes in traffic and parking issues.

Concern it could be a cut-through

Balskus, speaking for the developer, said the development team is “concerned about [a connecting road] being used as a cut-through.” He said drivers might find it quicker to travel through Hawks Ridge than to use existing roads to get from Long Hill Cross Road to Old Stratford Road, where entrances and exits for Route 8 are located.

He said this would raise safety concerns within the development and also increase traffic on Beard Sawmill Road, a smaller road with limited width.

The Hawks Ridge roadways would be privately built and maintained, but open to the public.

Having dead-end roads, however, can raise issues when it comes to access by emergency personnel.

Public hearing now is closed

The P&Z public hearing was closed on Wednesday, which means no more information can be entered into the record.

But Mayor Mark Lauretti, who sat with the P&Z at the hearing, will be allowed to submit some additional material under a verbal agreement with the developer’s representatives. The developer waived the right to rebut data provided by Lauretti in an effort to have the public hearing closed.

The next step will be for the P&Z to deliberate and vote on the matter, which is likely to happen at its March meeting.

Houses, condos, assisted living facility

The Feb. 26 hearing was the third meeting to take up Hawks Ridge, which would involve building 54 single-family homes, a 57-unit condominium/townhouse complex, and a 196-unit assisted living facility on Wells family property.

The site is bordered by Long Hill Cross Road to the north, Route 8 to the east, and Beard Sawmill Road to the south, and is close to Bridgeport Avenue to the west.

The developer is seeking conceptual approval to change the zone to create a Planned Development District for the project. If the concept is approved, the project’s specifics would come later and also require zoning approval.

A similar but slightly more intense proposal for the property was withdrawn last year after it appeared the P&Z was unlikely to approve it.

The land now is zoned for light industrial use. The developer has a contingency deal to buy the land from the Wells family if zoning approval is granted.

Manufacturing space demand

Another issue that came up was the current and future demand for manufacturing and office space. Ruth Parkins, P&Z chairman, quoted an newspaper article that stated there was “good cause for optimism” when it comes to manufacturing in the region.

The developers have said there is limited demand for undeveloped light manufacturing and office-space property in Shelton, and that is one reason it makes sense to change the zone from what is now in the city’s master plan.

The developers also have said an industrial project would bring increased truck traffic to roads (Long Hill Cross and Beard Sawmill) that are not designed to handle them due to limited width or topography.

In addition, they have said a large industrial or office project would require leveling much of the sloped land while housing can essentially be built working with the existing topography.

“This project really makes sense because of the site,” said Stephen R. Bellis, an attorney for the Hawks Ridge developer.

The developer announced at the meeting that a potential company has signed “a letter of intent” to own and operate the assisted living facility.

Intersection issues

Planned improvements to the intersection of Bridgeport Avenue and Long Hill Cross Road were discussed in detail, with the developer planning to widen Bridgeport Avenue north of Long Hill Cross Road so vehicles would gradually merge into a single lane.

The developer wants to allow vehicles to go both straight and right at what is now a right-turn-only lane on Bridgeport Avenue northbound at Long Hill Cross.

The traffic signal timing also would be changed as another way to try to prevent vehicles from backing up, particularly on Bridgeport Avenue south of the intersection during the afternoon commute.

No improvements to any other nearby intersections have been proposed.

Public input

Another member of the Wells family addressed the P&Z. Schuyler Wells of Shelton said having the land zoned for light industrial use makes this parcel “virtually unsellable.”

The land was inherited by six Wells siblings — four of whom are still alive and now are quite elderly. Schuyler Wells is a member of a younger generation.

Seven other people also spoke in favor of the project during the public speaking portion of the hearing. Their comments primarily focused on the need for adult luxury-oriented housing and assisted living facilities, the jobs that would be created, and the potential benefits to local businesses.

The Conservation Commission raised other issues in its letter, including the desire to require formal conservation easements to protect certain areas from being altered by the developer or eventual residents, and paying “special attention” to how water run-off from roofs and parking lots would be released into the nearby Far Mill River to protect trout habitat.