P&Z approves more units at Shelter Ridge

Shelton’s Planning and Zoning Commission reviewed the preliminary land use plans for the development of Towne Center and Shelter Ridge Apartments proposed for Bridgeport Avenue.

At the Nov. 9 special meeting, the P&Z focused on land use, both retail and residential, as well as the site layout regarding parking. Planning and Zoning Chairman Ruth Parkins said that although the developer returned with a proposal reducing the units from 450 to 411, she still prefers to see fewer units.

However, land use consultant Anthony Panico said if the commission continued to reduce units, it would affect the economic value of the site for the developer.

The 123.23-acre property in the application is located on the northern corner of Bridgeport Avenue and Mill Street, in the southern section of Shelton. The application calls for 24 acres of deed-restricted open space.

Mayor Mark Lauretti said it is important to have the open space.

Panico responded by commenting on the site and the open space.

“In the past the aldermen have not been very interested in taking the land. They’d rather just see it stay in the hands of somebody else and put the proper restrictions on it,” Panico said.

Subsequently, Lauretti said, some of the land becomes problematic for the city. Panico said the difference with the Bridgeport Avenue development is a possible Blue Dot Trail proposed to run through it.

However, the meeting also focused on the areas to be developed, which consisted of five land-use sites located on five parcels of land. Parcel A would be a 135,00 square-foot retail space, Parcel B a 176,000-square-foot retail space, and Parcel C retail and office use, especially medical offices. Parcel E would be Shelter Ridge.

Parkins said she still was not comfortable with 411 units. Panico said the apartments building is important for the developer to invest in developing the property.

“It takes a certain amount of entitlement to make a project go forward,” Panico said. “This land is not sitting there for no reason at all; it’s sitting there because it’s very difficult to develop. It’s difficult to build roads, and to build utilities, and to grade the sites to build on.”

Parkins agreed, saying, “and improve Bridgeport Avenue.” Although public comment is not allowed after an application closed, residents expressed their discontent at Parkins’ comment by grumbling and laughing.

The preliminary plan includes updates by the developer. Some changes include the removal of the assisted living site and reducing the medical building from 147,000 square feet to 64,000 square feet.

The Towne Center with the Plaza would be three stories high above Bridgeport Avenue. One commissioner wanted to do a site walk but was told the commission could not because the hearing is closed.

Parkins wanted to know if the apartment building would be visible from Mill Street. Panico said it would not project over the treetops. Parkins commented on the visibility of the building.

“I do have a major concern with that, though,” Parkins said. “The style of the building certainly isn’t my style and I certainly wouldn’t want to see it from Mill Street, which is a scenic road. My preference is not to see that building from Mill Street. When you say it’s not exceeding the treetops, with the elevation, I’m not sure that’s going to happen.”

Panico said it is 400 feet from the pavement and elevated to 315 feet. Parkins reiterated that she still was not comfortable with the number of units in the building, preferring 325 units.

“You have to keep in mind that if you destroy the economics then you don’t have anything there. You’re going to have 120 acres of green land,” Panico said.

The commission has until Nov. 25 to vote on the application, which it can accept, deny or accept with modifications. According to an earlier statement by Parkins, the commission may also request an extension from the applicant if members think it is necessary.

Shelton residents commented after the meeting. Peter Squitieri said you can see the Scinto building from his home, so he does not think Shelter Ridge would be out of sight on Mill Street, and Joyce DeLoma said she was disappointed with the project.

“Putting a development 200 feet from my property line denies me the quality of life that I had as a resident of the city of Shelton for 60 years,” DeLoma said.