P&Z to vote on large riverfront development ‘soon’

The Beacon Point Marina developer has eliminated one building and 10 residential units in an attempt to have a proposed luxury apartment complex with a boat club approved for the River Road property.

Developer attorney Dominick Thomas said downsizing the project even more isn’t feasible because it must generate enough funds to pay for a $2-million extension of the city sewer line to the site.

Thomas emphasized that extending the sewer line represented a major infrastructure improvement that would benefit the city, especially the surrounding neighborhood.

The city’s sewer line doesn’t go that far south on River Road (Route 110), ending near Constitution Boulevard South in the vicinity of the Toll Brothers Shelton Cove development. Some properties near the marina are able to hook up to the Stratford sewer system via Long Hill Avenue, including the Crescent Village condos across the street.

Opponents are worried about the density of the project along the riverfront and its impact on water views from the road and nearby properties.

“Where’s the river?” shouted one skeptic when Thomas showed renderings of the plan, with four multi-story apartment buildings near the water, at the Planning and Zoning Commission’s March 7 meeting. P&Z member Elaine Matto said she worried people living across the street would be “looking over the top of these buildings.”

Opponents also complained about traffic and overdevelopment throughout the city.

Resident Jan Girard said excess development will lead to traffic backups and overcrowded schools. “The quality of life for the residents is going down,” she said, insisting that developers don’t have an automatic right to make money in Shelton.

The P&Z’s public hearing on the application now is closed, and a vote is expected soon. P&Z member Anthony Pogoda indicated he thought the proposal still was too intense for the site. “I think there’s too many units,” he said, adding that the elimination of one building was a “good start.”

Modified PDD

The Great River Water Club would occupy the 8.6-acre property on the Housatonic River at 704-722 River Road, where Beacon Point Marina now is located. In 2007, the P&Z approved a Planned Development District (PDD) for the property with 31 condo units, an enlarged marina, a restaurant, and a pool club.

However, based on market conditions, the developer now wants to modify the earlier PDD.

“You had to rethink your development” after the Great Recession, Thomas told the P&Z.

The plan’s latest revision has four apartment buildings of up to five or six stories with 154 total units, a clubhouse with a pool, and a marina with 75 slips and a maintenance building. There would be underground and surface parking for apartment residents and marina users, three driveways on River Road, public walkways along the river, and five public parking spaces.

The modified PDD plan originally had its own wastewater treatment plant, but that idea was strongly criticized and then replaced by the possible sewer line extension. City Engineer Robert Kulacz said the on-site treatment plant would mean “treated effluent will be discharged directly into the Housatonic River.”

Thomas said the property now generates $28,000 in taxes, but the city should reap $142,000 a year post-development after projected education and other expenses.

While the plan would increase the amount of on-site impervious coverage, Thomas said, it includes a drainage system to treat all runoff before it reaches the river. He disputed claims the new plan involved limited water-dependent uses, as desired for waterfront properties, pointing to the docks, boat service facilities, and small vessel storage.

Thomas also downplayed concerns with blocked river views, saying Crescent Village is much higher than the marina site because of topography.

He said concerns about too much development destroying Shelton are common, such as when people feared a new Walmart on Bridgeport Avenue. “The exact same thing was said,” he recalled.

‘Not what we want’

About 10 residents spoke against the proposal at the March 7 meeting.

Adrienne Couture said dense residential projects were being allowed “everywhere” in Shelton. We’re telling you with as much energy and fortitude that this is not what we want for this town,” she said.

Joseph Bienkowski questioned how a 31-unit condo could be replaced by a 154-unit apartment complex. “I don’t recall voting to become Stamford. I don’t remember that referendum,” he said.

Greg Tetro said Crescent Village residents would have their river views blocked “because someone else is getting rich. … All we’re doing is developing, developing, developing. We’re going to have a glut.”

Glen Swanson said the project would make traffic “horrendous” on River Road. He worried about the safety of youngsters crossing the street near the Sports Center, saying a traffic light was needed.

Attorney Chris Russo, representing a Crescent Village resident opposed to the project, said the 5,000-foot linear sewer extension would require tearing up a major road for almost a mile. He said the original PDD was partly approved because of its public access components, and the new proposal has less of that.

Conservation Commission Chairman Tom Harbinson asked if more designated public parking could be added off River Road. He said the earlier PDD had a restaurant for the public.

P&Z member James Tickey said having so few public spaces was “disappointing,” and could lead to people parking along Route 110 and creating public safety issues.

Marina owner and project developer Richard Kral said the number of public parking spaces was increased from three to five, based on Conservation Commission input, and that should be “more than adequate.”

“We are a business,” said Kral, indicating he needs spaces for marina patrons.