Neighbors of would-be ‘Shelter Ridge’ property show areas of concern

Diane Jowdy points to where the nine-story 450-unit apartment building would overshadow the east side of the Far Mill located at 104 Mill Street. — Aaron Berkowitz photo
Diane Jowdy points to where the nine-story 450-unit apartment building would overshadow the east side of the Far Mill located at 104 Mill Street. — Aaron Berkowitz photo

Diane Jowdy of Mill Street said she understands the need for development, but the encroachment of the proposed Towne Center at Shelter Ridge on neighboring properties made her reach out to the developer himself.
She said she has known the site developer, Royal Wells, for 60 years and she recently wrote him a letter asking that he donate the property versus going forward with the proposal. She hasn’t heard back, but said she remains optimistic.

“I asked him if he would consider donating this land or having it preserved as the Wells Family Heritage Reserve,” said Jowdy. “I mean, he’s 82 — what does money really mean to someone his age?”

Residents of Mill Street and Old Kings Highway said they understand the city’s need to grow and adopt new developments, but the proposed plan for Towne Center at Shelter Ridge intrudes on their privacy.

John and Judy Tillman moved to their Old King’s Highway home 37 years ago and recall a time when developments in Shelton were not so common.

“On Bridgeport Avenue there was a hot dog stand called Hazel’s, there was Zach’s where Webster bank is, and there was Peter D’s, but that was it,” said Judy Tillman. “Since then we have gotten Route 8, the Scinto Towers and immediately next to them is the Italian restaurant. It’s awful and I’ve accepted that and I know we have to make progress, but now this is just too much.”

John Tillman said he remembers at night when he looked up at the sky and all he saw was stars. With the existing developments, he said, they can no longer enjoy that luxury.

“We’ll be surrounded,” he said. “We have a pool and they’ll be looking directly in from the apartment building which would be looking over our property, buffer or no buffer.”

He estimated that the apartment building would be 200 yards, give or take, from the back of his home.

Judy Tillman said she’s observed a number of vacant businesses in the community that she thinks should be occupied before the Planning and Zoning Commission approves a proposal and zone change of this magnitude.

“This definitely isn’t the town we moved into,” said Judy Tillman.

Jowdy said she has never seen a Planned Development District the Planning and Zoning Commission didn’t like.

“They just keep on approving these developments and it doesn’t make sense to me,” said Jowdy.

Jowdy and the Tillmans said they are fearful that the blasting needed to complete the Shelter Ridge proposal could lead to their wells drying up and damage to their properties similar to when the Scinto Towers were built.

“When they put the Iroquois gas line in, which is under the power lines, our well went dry. We could never prove it but we had to dig down 405 feet and it was still dry,” said John Tillman.

Jowdy explained that during the construction of the towers, a blaster actually told her that cracks in her Mill Street home were a result of blasting taking place too close to her property.

She said that along with considering the disturbance that would be caused to residents by the development, she is concerned about the effects it could have on wildlife in the area.

“We have a great blue heron, a beaver in the pond, muskrats, skunks, a fox, and then rabbits, chipmunks, a fisher, and lots of deer,” said Jowdy. “Wildlife species and plants need paths — it’s vital to their survival.”

During the informational meeting held by the site developer and site staff, attorney Dominick Thomas said the proposal’s design could be tweaked but there will be some form of development in the 121-acre property.