Community bands together to oppose Shelter Ridge

Nearly 400 residents packed the Shelton Intermediate School auditorium in hopes of persuading the Planning and Zoning Commission to reject the 121-acre Shelter Ridge proposal and zone change.

The developer’s attorney and site engineers spent approximately the first hour and-a-half of the public meeting explaining the modified site plan. Some residents left before the public portion began.

Site Attorney Dominick Thomas said the plans to include a medical building and assisted living facility are no longer a guarantee. He also said the thru-way from Bridgeport Ave. thru the development up to Buddington Rd. would no longer be built. Instead, it would be a cul de sac used only by emergency services if need-be. In all other cases the boulevard structured road would be chained off near Buddington.

Residents have voiced their disapproval of the proposal and zone change prior to the meeting and continued to do so when the it entered the public portion. Most want the zone to remain for light industrial use rather than being changed to a Planned Development District which has been used frequently with Shelton developers for the past 30 years.

A light industrial park would limit the developers to the construction of professional offices and warehouses; no 9-story apartment building.

The zone change would grant developers more freedom with their plans for the property. Chairman of the P&Z, Ruth Parkins clarified that if the developer’s make any “major changes” to the plan a new public portion will be opened. The Planning and Zoning Commission determines what is a major change.

Over 90 residents wrote down their names requesting to speak during the meeting, which resulted in Parkins announcing the public portion would continue Thursday, May 31.

Site Attorney Dominick Thomas explained that developers are making changes to the plan as they go because Shelter Ridge is one of the largest applications in Fairfield County history and is also very complex.

He added that the comments made by residents during the developer’s informational session were taken into consideration during the modification of the site plan.

Towne at Shelter Ridge would be built upon a 5 million square foot lot on Bridgeport Ave., Mill St. and Buddington Rd. The developer’s proposal included a 450 unit apartment building with an Olympic-size pool, outdoor fire pits, along with rooftop access. The property would also include 300,000 square feet of retail space.

The developer’s presentation described the apartment building as a would-be major key in the property’s success. Site engineer Jim Swift reiterated the developer’s thought that the city lacked retail space as well.

Regis Dognin of Long Hill Ave. said he was impressed by the turnout of residents, but highlighted the importance of their continuous support and attendance at the P&Z meetings regarding the development.

Board of Aldermen President John Anglace, Alderman Jim Capra, and Alderman Lynne Farrell said spoke at the meeting to represent a number of residents who weren’t able to attend.

Both Anglace and Capra also said they are personally against the proposal.

Capra, who is a lifelong resident of Shelton and currently Property Manager at the Avon apartment complex on Canal St, said he would much rather see developments take place in the downtown area.

Other residents said they would prefer to see some of the vacant businesses in town occupied before creating new ones.

“We would love to have some competition down here,” said Capra in reference to the proposed 450-unit apartment building.

Kevin Solli of Solli Engineering LLC. presented a summarized version of the 967 page traffic report he produced based on what the Trip Generation Manual projected would be affected by the application.

Being that traffic pouring out onto Bridgeport Ave. is one of resident’s biggest concerns, Solli  also shared a proposal to widen part of Bridgeport Ave. in order to better handle the increase in cars on the road.

There was also discussion of possibly widening Platt St. and Nells Rock Rd.

Anglace said he thought it was ironic that the 900-plus paged traffic report didn’t include the traffic that would be a result of the streets being widened.

Sheryl French, a Shelton resident said the traffic report is based too much off of speculations and they can’t accurately predict the effects of developments on Bridgeport Ave. that haven’t opened yet; such as Big Y.

Chris Kerin, a partner in a Fairfield real estate agency, said the apartments would generate more than $726,000 in new taxes while income from the retail, offices and medical complexes would reach at least $2.7 million. He described the project as a “benefit” for the city.

Alderman Anglace pointed out that the development would take approximately 10 years to complete and said he didn’t think it’s something the city needs at this time.

“We can afford to be more picky and choosy about what comes here. We won’t sell our soul for tax dollars,” said Anglace.