‘Wrong and unfair:’ Neighbors object to number of homes in Nichols Place plan

This development proposed 18 single-family homes to be constructed on some 15 acres on Nichols Avenue.

This development proposed 18 single-family homes to be constructed on some 15 acres on Nichols Avenue.

Brian Gioiele / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — Opponents of a Nichols Avenue development with 18 single-family homes on some 12 acres call the plan massive and out of character for the section of Huntington.

AJ Grasso, a longtime Shelton resident and builder of more than 30 years known most recently for his Hawks Ridge development, presented his plans for 413 Nichols Ave. to the Planning and Zoning Commission July 22. The property sits in the area of September Lane, Kazo Drive and Hidden Pond Lane, near the Trumbull border.

Grasso had requested a special exception for a designed residential district, which he says will “protect and possibly enhance the value of the surrounding one-acre homes, given the quality of the development with private roads, increased dedicated open space and conservation easements.”

While people came out to support Grasso for his building history, the public hearing featured many more neighboring residents questioning the number of units for the site, which had been home to a single-family home for decades.

“I don’t that monstrosity behind my home,” said Ray Jakabcin of September Lane.

Jakabcin said he met with Grasso and acknowledges that he builds quality homes, but this development proposal contains too many homes for the size of the lot, he said. Grasso’s plan would create 18 homes on the 15-acre lot, with more than four acres left for open space.

Grasso said the Jakabcin’s property will no longer have a home behind it at all — instead they will have deeded open space.

Lauren Casalveri of Hidden Pond Road said the project, as proposed, was out of character for the neighborhood and would devalue surrounding properties.

“It is wrong and unfair,” said Casalveri.

Both Casalveri and Jakabcin agreed that Grasso, as owner of the property, had the right to develop the land. But they, along with other neighbors, said they hope a compromise could be reached on reducing the number of homes, to maybe 12 or 13.

Tom Hanas of Hidden Pond Lane presented the commission with a petition with some 60 signatures in opposition to the project, which Grasso stated would take nearly three years to complete if approved.

“This does not fit our area,” said Hanas.

Other residents voiced concern about increased traffic congestion, while others said such a development would adversely impact the wildlife in the area, which includes land trust open space at the rear of the lot.

Grasso said his team worked to lessen the impacts on the surrounding neighborhood during the planning process, and “we have certainly accomplished that.

“I plan to build high quality, custom, energy-efficient homes ranging in size from approximately 2,600 to about 3,200 square feet,” said Grasso. “This would further protect the property values of abutting homes on Hidden Pond with their larger homes and lots.”

Grasso said there will be significantly less tree clearing and land disturbance as well as much more permanently protected land with a DRD approval.

“I will be planting buffer trees between Nichols Place and the surrounding neighbors as shown on my plans,” said Grasso. “The proposed home sites will be beautifully landscaped.”

The proposed development would have private roads versus city-maintained roads, according to Grasso, so plowing, maintenance and future paving will not be paid for by Shelton taxpayers. A Homeowners Association will oversee all road expenses and protection of the open space.

The commission continued the public hearing to an undetermined future date.