‘Victory for residents of Shelton:’ Shelter Ridge plans pulled from wetlands commission, for now
SHELTON — Developers of the proposed Towne Center at Shelter Ridge project have pulled their application from the Inland Wetlands Commission.
Attorney Dominick Thomas, representing the developers, made the move on Oct. 1, two weeks after Civil 1 — a Shelton-based engineering firm hired by the city to review all plans and perform its own analysis of the project — presented its review highlighting several areas deemed incomplete.
Thomas, in a letter to commission Chair Gary Zahornasky, said the developers intend to refile after meeting with Civil 1 engineers to discuss the firm’s findings.
“The timetable will be determined by the ability to set up a meeting to review the report,” Thomas told Hearst Connecticut Media. “I hope to move on it as soon as I can.”
In the letter, Thomas stated that the developers were unable to respond to the issues raised in the Civil 1 report because the public hearing — which had been open for more than a year — had been closed before Civil 1 was hired.
"Since the public hearing is closed, my client cannot properly reply to the (commission),” Thomas wrote. “Even if we were to review the report with Civil 1, our responses, changes would possibly be considered post public hearing evidence.”
The withdrawal does not affect the Planning and Zoning Commission approval of a Planned Development District (PDD) for the project, which calls for 375 one- and two-bedroom units in a building that is to be three stories facing Buddington and six stories facing Bridgeport Avenue based on the topography. The site would also include more than 300,000 square feet of retail space and more than 3,000 parking spaces along 121 acres at the intersection of Mill Street and Bridgeport Avenue.
Planning and Zoning commissioner Jimmy Tickey, who voted against the project when it was before P&Z, called the withdrawal a “victory for the residents of Shelton.”
Tickey said there has never been complete plans for Shelter Ridge, which he described as a mega-development proposed on a beautiful 121-acre property off Bridgeport Avenue ironically located on Shelton's first ever scenic road.
“This proposal does nothing to advance the idea of balanced development, and only worsens our already crowded Bridgeport Avenue corridor with thousands more cars daily,” Tickey said. “This proposal jeopardizes our natural wetland resources, disrupts our trail system and negatively impacts homeowners who would face this monstrosity.”
Greg Tetro of Save our Shelton, a group formed more than four years ago in response to Shelter Ridge, said he was pleased to see the group’s “hard work finally paid off.”
The newly hired firm is not the only group that studied Shelter Ridge. Save Our Shelton and the city engineer also provided input on the project. All reports but the developer’s found problems with the project as proposed.
Civil 1 was the second peer review sought by the commission, which originally retained Westport-based LandTech last year to do the same job.
The commission, however, determined in February that that company’s report “did not offer sufficient information to go ahead and deliberate the Shelter Ridge project,” said Nappi at the commission’s Aug. 12 meeting.
The commission’s stated problems with LandTech prompted Mayor Mark Lauretti to appear at the February meeting and offer to hire another engineering firm after the city already paid LandTech $16,000.
The public hearing, officially closed in March, had been open for more than a year, a point of contention by Save Our Shelton. Steve Trinkaus, a civil engineer advising the grassroots group, had told the commission during a February public hearing that, under state statute, the hearing should have closed in May 2018 and a final ruling should have been made by July 2018.
Fran Teodosio, the city’s corporation counsel, disagreed, saying the commission, with permission of the applicant, can keep the public hearing open as long as necessary.
Tetro stated the application has “failed under many factors” in studies done by Trinkaus, the city engineer and LandTech. And while all engineers involved — including those representing Towne Center at Shelter Ridge — are qualified, three are opposed to the project and only one in favor.
The Planned Development District for the site was approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission in 2017 by a 4-2 vote with Tickey and then-commissioner Anthony Pogoda Jr. opposed. The P&Z decision was appealed, and that appeal has since been denied.