P&Z chair responds to SOS criticism

Planning and Zoning Chair Ruth Parkins said Save Our Shelton’s criticism of those in support of the Shelter Ridge application is bias and misrepresents the role of commissioners.

“Regarding SOS’s promotion of candidates for the upcoming election, I will just say they are presenting a very slanted perspective of what P&Z members stand for,” said Parkins.

On April 30, SOS organized a public meeting during which it passed out papers with a list of city leaders who supported Shelter Ridge.

The list included Parkins, P&Z Commissioner Elaine Matto, P&Z Commissioner Ned Miller, and P&Z Commissioner Virginia Harger.

The same handout also encouraged residents to support P&Z Commissioner Jimmy Tickey, Alderman Jim Capra, and Board of Aldermen President John Anglace, who all openly opposed the development.

The only candidates up for re-election this year are Parkins, Tickey, Anglace, and Capra.

Commissioner Tickey said he supports residents’ voicing their opinions, either positive or negative.

“I think it is healthy for the democratic process to have citizens engaging in the issues and encouraging others to have their voice heard, whether it be speaking at a public hearing or advocating for a certain policy or candidate,” said Tickey.

Mayor Mark Lauretti said he doesn’t agree with the opinions being spread of those in favor of Shelter Ridge, but realizes that everyone is entitled to an opinion.

“I think our Planning and Zoning Commission over the last 25 years has done an outstanding job for the city,” said Lauretti.

Parkins said there will always be an opposition to developments that are proposed or approved.

“There will always be people opposed to some development or another, even more so when it is in their neighborhood,” said Parkins. “Due to the size of the Shelter Ridge proposal, located in an area designated long ago for economic development, we allowed a much longer public participation process. We listened to the concerns and we addressed many of them through the conditions that were written into the resolution.”

Tickey said in many of the public hearings for Shelter Ridge that he doesn’t think the Shelter Ridge development is a good fit for Shelton.

“The P&Z Commission is making decisions that will last for generations, so I take my role very seriously,” said Tickey. “As a Planning and Zoning commissioner, I listen closely to all those who speak at our public hearings, read materials with facts and figures, and take into account my own knowledge of the area, having been raised in this community. I vote with my conscience and realize sometimes people will agree with me and sometimes they may not. I stand by my record these past four years of supporting balanced development that I believe will be an asset to the city of Shelton in the long run, and smart growth that maintains both our quality of life and tax base.”

Lauretti said he thinks SOS just doesn’t want any development on the 121-acre property located on Bridgeport Avenue, Buddington Road and Mill Street.

Shelton owes growth to PDDs?

SOS has been critical of the city’s P&Z Commission approving Planned Development Districts (PDDs), especially in primarily residential areas.

Lauretti said PDDs serve a purpose in the community.

“Everything that has been done on Bridgeport Avenue has been done through a PDD, everything that has been done downtown has been done through a PDD, and if people don’t think that they’re positive things for the city, then there’s nothing else for me to say,” said Lauretti.

Parkins said since 1979, Shelton has had nearly 90 PDDs approved throughout the city.

“Since 1979, there have been more than 87 PDDs approved in many areas of Shelton, for many purposes — retail, residential, office, hotels, and mixed use,” said Parkins. “Shelton’s success is due in large part to those approvals. While the Planned Development District designation allows more flexibility than might be allowed in an existing zone, it provides the P&Z Commission with much more control over a development on an ongoing basis — use, design, materials, landscaping, open space, etc. One of the most cited reasons businesses and residents move to Shelton is its low and stable tax base, and economic development plays a major role in that.”

The SOS majority said it feels the city’s P&Z commission approves too many PDDs.

Parkins disagrees.

“Contrary to SOS opinion, not every application that comes before the P&Z gets approved, but all applicants must be afforded due process under the law. I encourage people to become familiar with our regulations and the state statutes that govern planning and zoning commissions so that they clearly understand the process. All such information is available online.”

SOS vs. the city

SOS is trying to raise $50,000 to pay for its two separate legal cases in lawsuits it has filed against the city.

The group of residents concerned with “high-density residential and retail development” is looking to raise money to support its two legal committees.

SOS has organized one committee focused on an appeal against the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission, and another focused on the Shelter Ridge wetlands. Each committee has its own lawyer.

In late April, Milford Superior Court Judge John Moran scheduled a hearing for the case against the P&Z Commission for Jan. 16, 2018. The 2018 court case means that the developers will not be able to begin building in spring 2017.

Tickey said his work to maintain balanced developments in Shelton will continue as long as he’s on the commission.

“I will keep working toward balanced development across the city of Shelton — respecting our neighborhoods while supporting smart development that adds good jobs and maintains our tax base. But I will be vocal in my opposition to high-density projects that are not well-thought-out, add to traffic concerns and diminish our quality of life. That’s why I have voted against high-density proposals that are only beneficial to the biggest developers and not those of us who live in, work in and enjoy Shelton.”