Developer wants smaller lot size for downtown project

A developer is proposing a slight change in the minimum lot size required for a Planned Development District (PDD) in downtown Shelton because some older properties may be slightly too small to meet the provision.

The developer, 636 Cooke Street LLC, wants to building a commercial, office and apartment building on a vacant lot on Howe Avenue. The site is just south of Shelton Pizza Palace.

The required size for a PDD in the Central Business District zone is 10,000 square feet (about a quarter acre) but the development site at 523 Howe Ave. is only 9,805 square feet (0.23 acres).

Engineer James Swift, representing the developer, said the downtown PDD size requirement was intended to accommodate two adjacent 50-foot by 100-foot parcels, a common lot size when downtown was developed.

But modern survey techniques are finding many of the older lots are slightly smaller than thought. Swift said the applicant's development site was believed to be 100-feet by 100-feet before a recent survey showed it was smaller.

The developer wants to amend the current regulations to allow for downtown PDDs that are up to 10% smaller than 10,000 square feet as long as "the parcel has adequate frontage, shape and buildable area to satisfy the intended use," according to the application.

Swift said the goal is "to meet the original intent" of the PDD requirement while providing "some leeway" to encourage appropriate development. The current rule "may prevent parcels that might be appropriate for PDDs" from being developed downtown, he said.

P&Z members appeared open to the idea because it could boost economic activity in the city center while giving the commission discretion on each individual case. "There are parcels downtown that could use it," said Vice Chairman Tony Pogoda, noting this could help grow the tax base.

A similar plan by the same developer for the property was previously approved without a PDD, but Swift said "a flaw" then was discovered and the developer now is pursuing a PDD.

Lot size minimums for PDDs are higher in other parts of Shelton, usually 60,000 square feet (about 1.4 acres), and would not change based on the request. But the change in downtown PDD sizes, if approved, would apply to all future applicants.

Four-story structure

The developer wants to build a four-story building with 2,600 square feet of ground-floor commercial space, a small second-floor office and 11 apartments. There would be six one-bedroom units and five studio units.

Eleven on-site parking spaces -- including one handicapped spot -- would be provided. The building would be close to the road, with a driveway on the side and parking in the rear.

Member James Tickey asked what would happen with the one handicapped parking spot  if there was no tenant with disabilities. Member Mark Widomski said this scenario basically means there would be "10 spots" for tenant parking.

Commercial tenants and visitors would have to use on-street parking, which isn't necessarily uncommon for downtown projects.

Other questions were asked about on-site snow removal and if adequate storage space was being provided for residential tenants.