P&Z to discuss Long Hill Avenue development May 9

Whether to allow a six-home development on 3.96-acres on Long Hill Avenue by creating a Planned Development District (PDD) is now up to the Planning and Zoning Commission.

The P&Z is expected to deliberate May 9 on the application by Jack and Josephine Gaida for  405 Long Hill Avenue, next to the Route 8 highway and across from Sylvan Drive.

At the April 26 meeting, the Gaidas’ attorney, Dominick Thomas, submitted a soil scientist report and traffic study on the Brookview Heights project. Homes would be built on quarter-acre lots in a cluster-type development, leaving the rear part of the property — near Route 8 and where wetlands are located — undeveloped.

The amount and location of fill placed on the site — as well as how recently such activities took place — have been an issue. While some of the fill dates back to when the adjacent Route 8 highway was built more than 40 years ago, other fill is more recent.

“We have seen truckloads of fill” going in, said Long Hill Avenue resident Steven Kampler.

Opponents have asked why someone who used fill, allegedly without proper permits, would be rewarded by getting a dense housing development approved on his or her property.

Concerned neighbors and others also have raised questions about the limited frontage, wetlands impact, density, and attempted use of a PDD for the project.

“It’s inconsistent with the current neighborhood,” said Long Hill Avenue resident Regis Dognin. “We don’t have any PDDs.”

Long Hill Avenue resident Joseph Bienkowski said that based on current zoning regulations, the developer should be allowed to have only two houses on the property because it is a rear lot with minimal frontage.

Thomas called the parcel “an extremely unique piece of property” that was impacted by the construction of Route 8.

This is the fifth attempt by the Gaidas to develop the land, which is partly in both a light industrial zone and a one-acre, single-family home zone. The six homes would be part of a homeowners’ association, with 2.1 acres of common area created near Route 8. Homeowners would own their individual lots.

According to the applicant’s soil scientist, Scott Stevens, three test pits dug up to 13 feet deep on April 25 showed that “no recent filling appears to have encroached within the wetlands or watercourses on-site.”

Opponents questioned if the test pits were deep enough to reach the old fill, saying there could be problems with sinkholes due to future settlement and asking about possible contamination.

Stevens said the existence of large trees in the rear of the site indicates no recent fill has been used in the wetlands. His report indicates that areas closer to the existing house are where more recent fill was placed.

Traffic, plows, wetlands

The Tighe & Bond traffic study indicated that the added traffic volume “will be reasonable and acceptable, and that there will be no impact to the roadway system from the development.” The study from a previous 14-unit condominium proposed at the site was used for the analysis.

Opponents said Long Hill Avenue already is congested with vehicles, especially during the morning and evening commutes. “All day long I see traffic that is backed up,” said Long Hill Avenue resident Stephanie Kampler.

The ability of trucks to plow snow on the development’s driveway also was discussed. The homes would all be accessed by a 24-foot-wide private road, with the property having only 30 feet of frontage at Long Hill Avenue. The private road — or common driveway — would be on a slope.

The question of whether large vehicles such as plows and fire trucks would be able to turn around on the driveway cul-de-sac was asked.

In addition, questions were raised about the possible existence of a vernal pool at the site, with Thomas insisting no vernal pool exists. “Puddles are not vernal pools,” said Thomas, adding that it would be an inland wetlands issue, not a zoning matter, if one did.

Because a PDD application is considered a conceptual plan and not a detailed one, a wetlands application doesn’t need to be filed until later in the process.