P&Z official of 60 years discusses passion for the future

This Shelton Planning and Zoning official of the last 60 years said his loyalty kept him coming back to fulfill his duty to the city.

Up until about a month or so ago, Frank Osak, 90, was a P&Z alternate. He recently resigned due to an ongoing battle with melanoma.

Since he was diagnosed in 2015, Osak said he felt like his job “wasn’t done.”

“I wanted the city to continue to grow,” said. Osak.

Since joining the P&Z 1962 as a commissioner who was then voted to be the chair the same year, Osak has seen the city grow.

An engineer by training, Osak admitted that while the mayor of the city in 1962 explained what the job entailed he questioned whether he had gotten involved in something that would require too much of his time.

“I said, ‘What did I get into?’” Osak remarked.

The birth of Route 8

Osak said he recalls seeing the Route 8 corridor being carved out and developing from miles of farmland to what it is today.  

The longtime P&Z official described a meeting he attended in Hartford with P&Z Vice Chair at the time Ole Severson and consultant Bryan Panico to discuss the future of Shelton.

With maps and plans in hand, a stranger walked in the meeting carrying a map that the three P&Z members hadn’t seen before.

“I said, ‘That’s a geodetic map, what are you going to do with that?’” said Osak. “The man told us to look closely where we saw two lines starting at the Stratford town line all the way through the Commodore Hull Bridge. I said, ‘What’s that?’ and he said, ‘That’s what Route 8 is going to be.’ Holy Christ, the whole Bridgeport Avenue would become an access road and there was going to be a highway through Shelton.”

He said when the idea of Route 8 was presented to them, the P&Z Commission set a rule amongst themselves.

“We have to make it so Route 8 is tax positive,” said Osak. “In other words it brings more in taxes than the services it demands. That was our rule.”

Fast-forwarding to 2015, Osak said he’s seen the vision for the city change, not necessarily for the better.

Political interference

Osak said he’s never had a major issue with any of the many mayors that he’s worked under for the past 60 years, but admits that the dynamics of planning have changed under the Mayor Mark Lauretti administration.

“He now has a lot to say about planning and zoning, I’ve been there as an alternate for three- and-a-half years now and boy I see it. He pretty much controls it and pulls the strings, but the other mayors never did that, except for Francis Kelly. He lived on Mill Street and wanted to eliminate the exit 12 on Route 8 because it bothered his residential neighborhood.”

When Route 8 was just an idea, the P&Z said they didn’t want to waste the land on “strip malls, cinderblock buildings and six cash registers with no taxes,” but Osak he’s seen those same undesired developments become a reality.

“Right now the planning and zoning doesn’t do that. The first thing these developers do is go to the mayor’s office. What conversation goes on between him and them, I don’t know, but anyways the deals are cut as far as I can tell,” said Osak. “He [Lauretti] does some very good things, watches the budgets, and does a reasonably good job at it and he likes it, but he also likes himself. He’s very egotistical. You ask [Current P&Z Chair] Ruth Parkins who saw this [any development proposal] the first time and she’ll tell you the mayor called me in once and there’s no telling what went on.

“All we had was good intentions and we had no political interference,” said Osak.

90 years of experience

After 90 years in this world, Osak said having respect for other people, their thoughts, and understanding that everyone’s thought processes and beliefs won’t be the same are things that he wished learned earlier on in life.

“We’re all different. We all have different philosophies of life,” said Osak.