‘It would be a disaster:’ P&Z rejects Huntington Center housing plan

Shelton’s Planning and Zoning Commission has unanimously rejected a a plan for a 20-home development on six acres near Huntington Center.

“I think it would be a disaster if we allowed this to happen.” Commissioner Charles Kelly said at Tuesday’s night meeting.

Fellow commissioners echoed similar sentiments.

“I can’t think of a single reason to grant this proposal,” Commissioner Elaine Matto said. “I don’t see how you can jam 20 houses on this property.”

The 6.1-acre property, owned by Huntington Congregational Church, is located behind the church and off Ripton Road. The applicant, Primrose Development LLC, was seeking to create a Planned Development District (PDD) on the property, now zoned for one-acre and half-acre lots.

The decision to reject the proposal — which led to a round of applause from a crowd of roughly 100 in the Shelton Intermediate School Auditorium — followed a 45-minute public hearing. The hearing had been continued from a June 27 meeting, where 500 people packed the forum to show opposition to the plan. On Tuesday night, the crowd was much smaller, but the message remained clear.

“Maybe something like this would have been passed in the past but, going forward, I hope this commission is more thoughtful,” said Commissioner Jimmy Tickey. “Huntington Center not a place for cluster housing.”

Public hearing

Eight residents spoke Tuesday night. Seven were opposed to the application moving forward, citing the historic nature of the area, environmental concerns, taxing city services and leading to nearby home values declining.

Resident Ludwig Spinelli, who formerly served as a P&Z alternate, said the application “turned his stomach.” He urged the commission to change zoning laws to eliminate the PDD option for developers.

“It’s happening much to often,” he said. “Shelton is at risk.”

Speakers strongly disagreed with presentations made back on June 27 by the applicant’s attorney, Dominick Thomas, and a traffic study by the Traffic Engineer Dave Sullivan, saying impact would be minimal.  

Shelton’s Conservation Commission voiced opposition via a letter to P&Z, stating the development would be visible from the Huntington Green, which would change the character of the area, and the proposal would intensify existing flooding.

The applicant’s attorney, Dominick Thomas, was unable to speak to the commission at Tuesday’s public hearing as he arrived just after it was closed at 7:45 p.m. An attorney at Thomas’ practice, Ian Cole, told P&Z that Thomas had a conflicting meeting in Derby and was hoping to arrive by 8 p.m. Cohen, on Thomas’s behalf, asked the commission to recess until he arrived. That request irked commissioners, who flatly refused to do so.

“Attorney Thomas was here at the last meeting, he heard us scheduling this a month and a half ago,” Commissioner Mark Widomski said. “I would have loved to be moving my daughter into college tonight but I’m here doing my civic duty. He’s getting paid, we’re not.”

Huntington Congregational

Soren Ibsen, a member of Huntington Congregational Church and chairman of the church’s property committee, defended the proposal before it was rejected.

“These types of properties, with a small footprint and less maintenance, are what people are looking for these days — Baby Boomers and Milennials,” he said.

The Rev. Lucille Fritz wrote a letter to the commission that also noted changing housing trends and the need for many to downsize. The letter outlined the church’s active and positive role in the community since 1724.

“We decided to sell the property, in good faith, with the best intention of it being an asset to the community,” Fritz wrote.

Fritz wrote that the church had purchased the property 40 years ago, knowing that it could be sold if difficult economic times arose for the church.

“If someday we have to close our doors for good, the face of Huntington Green may be forever changed.”

Commissioner Matto mentioned the potential future for the property and said she hoped City officials and the Board of Aldermen members could consider buying the property. She noted that P&Z has no authority to do so.

“It would be great to come up with a plan to use this property for a civic purpose,” Matto said