Sunwood Condo residents worry about cut-through traffic

The developer of a proposed 30-unit apartment building off Old Bridgeport Avenue has suggested installing three new “Private Road” signs to try to discourage drivers from using the adjacent Sunwood Condominiums as a cut-through.

The applicant, GNK LLC, also reiterated an offer to “contribute” some funds for a gated entrance to the large condo complex near Old Bridgeport Avenue, if desired by the condo association.

The developer wants to construct a three-story building on a 1.9-acre parcel on Sunwood Drive, a private road leading to the condo complex from Old Bridgeport Avenue. Sunwood Drive also connects to Nells Rock Road.

Sunwood residents are concerned the project means more vehicles would pass through the condo complex as a shortcut between Nells Rock Road and Bridgeport Avenue during busy driving times.

Developer attorney Dominick Thomas, presenting a traffic study to the Planning & Zoning Commission, said the cut-through traffic and congestion problems on busy Bridgeport Avenue being highlighted by opponents in letters, comments and petitions already are an issue.

“The letters that were presented made one thing very clear: the traffic problems exist,” Thomas said Nov. 13, when the application’s P&Z public hearing was continued for a second night. “We’re trying to address the problem.”

The commission has received many letters and petition signatures opposing the project

The developer’s traffic study, conducted by Milone & MacBroom, concluded “a very small portion of the [apartment building] traffic could go from the site directly to Nells Rock Road through the Sunwood Condos,” and this could be deterred “by improving and supplementing the existing signage.”

The firm suggested putting a “Private Road Ahead — Not a Through Road” sign on Sunwood Drive near Old Bridgeport Avenue, a “Private Road — Sunwood Residents Only” sign on Sunwood Drive where condo property begins, and a “No Right Turn — Private Road” sign for motorists exiting the apartment driveway.

P&Z member Mark Widomwki was leery the signs would have a major effect.

“People don’t pay attention to signs,” Widomwki said.

Opponents, consisting mostly of Sunwood Condo owners, were skeptical as well. They worried about the safety of children waiting for school buses or riding bicycles, and people walking around the 168-unit condo complex that doesn’t have sidewalks.

“No change in signs is going to stop people from driving through or speeding,” said Sunwood resident Sue Teasdale, insisting the condo shouldn’t have to make adjustments due to a nearby development proposal.

Sunwood resident Julie Vostinak said she doesn’t want her three school-aged children to be hit by “a discourteous driver who didn’t want to wait behind a school bus.” Sunwood resident Inez Napolitano warned children “will get mowed down.”

Sunwood residents said a gated entrance would cause inconvenience, including with deliveries and service people, and questioned the logic of installing one gate when Sunwood also has two entrances on Nells Rock Road where putting up gates is impractical.

Opponents also focused on the difficulty of taking a left turn onto Bridgeport Avenue from Old Bridgeport Avenue or Cots Street during busy times, noting the lack of traffic lights. One of these intersections is near a Route 8 entrance and exit, and the applicant’s traffic study found it has a “poor level of service” now.

Many people use Old Bridgeport Avenue and Cots Street to get around a traffic light that backs up at the highway entrance and exit.

Opponents criticized the apartment building’s size and density, pointing out other major residential and retail projects have been approved in the immediate area and traffic is only getting worse.

Thomas said a small apartment building wouldn’t generate a lot of traffic at one time, most drivers do obey traffic signs, and opponents didn’t present evidence from a traffic expert.

The developer has proposed some traffic calming measures near the apartment building, such as speed bumps on the private Sunwood Drive. All residential units would be one bedroom.

The property’s legal address is 301 Old Bridgeport Avenue, a road that runs parallel to Bridgeport Avenue between the D’Addario auto dealership and the Wiffle Ball factory.

The hearing was closed and the P&Z will begin deliberations at a future meeting.

The property is zoned Restricted Business District, which allows certain multi-family dwellings and commercial uses such as a restaurant, gas station and small manufacturing facility. Thomas said a more intense use would more negatively affect Sunwood residents.

The parcel once housed a childcare center. The developer has applied to create a Planned Development District (PDD).