Possibly more Bridgeport Ave. apartments

The Shelton Planning and Zoning Commission listened to a team from Blakeman Construction Co. propose an initial development concept and request for planned development zone change in order to build a 37-unit multifamily development at 309 Old Bridgeport Avenue. The proposed development was heard at the commission’s Sept. 28 meeting.

The 37-unit apartment complex, called Brook View Apartments, would be located on a 3.3-acre property. The initial concept for the development calls for 20 one-bedroom apartments, 16 one-bedroom apartments with a den, and one studio apartment. The apartments would range from 593 square feet to 800 square feet, and would rent for between $1,100 and $1,300.

Brook View would parallel Bridgeport Avenue and be near Hunan Pan Restaurant. At the rear, would be Sunwood Condominiums, located along the Western border. The apartment complex would be opposite Knollbrook Condominiums.

The complex would have two parking lots accessed through a driveway on Old Bridgeport  Avenue and the other via the Knollbrook Condominiums driveway, which currently uses an easement for a driveway that is owned by developer Jim Blakeman.

Attorney Steve Bellis, representing the applicant, commented on the project and surrounding community.

“Overall, the piece of property was always conceived with the shared driveway being surrounded by multifamily-type condominiums; that was always going to be the highest and best use of the property,” Bellis said.

Bellis said the application received approval from the Shelton Wetland Committee, the city engineer and the fire marshal. There is also an application with the Sewer Commission. The developer initially proposed to the Wetland Committee a larger building with more units, Bellis said.

The engineer for the project, Jim Swift, said they are planning to keep Brook View away from the nob, which is a large bald rock in the area. He said the parking lot designed for the building stops at the nob in order to minimize blasting at the site.

The initial application calls for a separate water treatment facility to handle storm water, which includes 100-year storm protection. The applicant said water quality is addressed by Inland Wetlands, along with the ordinance for storm water regulations in Shelton.

All utilities are at the site, including electric, gas and sewer, and said to be sufficient to handle the needs of the project. A landscape plan was provided for the Inland Wetlands Committee to show buffer plantings and where mitigation plantings would be. The initial plans call for a mix of shade trees, buffering trees and foundation trees.

Commission Chair Ruth Parkins asked if the rear of the building would be facing the condominiums but was told by Swift that the building was created to look appealing on both sides. Sunwood is facing the side of the building that has three stories and the other side has five stories.

Nearly a dozen Shelton residents listened to the Brook View hearing. Some residents who commented were board members of the Knollbrook Home Owner Association (HOA).

Erma DeBrum, president of Knollbrook HOA, addressed the commission about her concerns.

“We do not have amenities, but we have children, bus stops and senior citizens,” DeBrum said. “We have people with pets who do quite a bit of walking because it is a quiet neighborhood. I am afraid with the additional 37 units that it is going to affect our quality of life.”

DeBrum said she doesn't feel that the traffic assessment completed by David Sullivan, manager of traffic engineering of Milone & MacBroom, was accurate because it was completed in August. However, in Sullivan’s traffic report provided to Jim Blakeman, it is reported that manual turning movement counts were conducted at the intersection of Old Bridgeport Avenue and Knollbrook Condominiums driveway from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. “to capture peak commuter travel periods.”

DeBrum was also concerned that the proposed property would not be maintained because it would be a rental property. She said Blakeman owns rentals at Knollbrook and the HOA cannot get paperwork returned. She also wanted to know what would happen to a single-family home that is facing the parking lot.

Kelly Humiston, vice president of the HOA, said she, too, is opposed to Brook View because of the aesthetics, property value concerns, quality of life, and the traffic assessment. She claimed that during the assessment someone drove onto her grass with a clicker to count traffic.

She also wanted to know if there would be regulations regarding the balconies at Brook View.

“Are we going to be looking at people putting sheets up in their windows or a Bob Marley poster, stuff that we don’t think would be visually appealing?” Humiston said.

She questioned regulations regarding pets, barking dogs and lights that might shine in other residents’ bedrooms. She also inquired whether any rental units would be Section 8 housing.

Humiston also claimed that Blakeman owns four units at Knollwood. She also said Blakeman neither returns paperwork nor pays the common charges on time.

Dr. Edward Caliguri, a chemistry professor at Southern Connecticut State University, lives at Sunwood. He said he, too, opposes the development.

“I think building along a wetland site, especially one as pristine and beautiful between Sunwood and Knollbrook, actually and potentially could be a big mistake, even if the Wetland Committee has given its initial approval,” Caliguri said. “You don’t know what you are going to find in something like this until you start to build there.”

Caliguri said the plowing, and chemicals spread on the large driveways might leach into the soil and he is afraid it would contaminate the ponds at Sunwood. Also, he is concerned that drivers would cut through the Sunwood entrance to go from Old Bridgeport Road to Nells Road. He said new residents would realize that the cut-through is a way to go over to the new shopping complex and Buddington Road. He told the P&Z that he likes living on the wetlands.

Bellis responded to residents’ comments. He said the home across from the parking lot would be razed. He said Knollwood and Sunwood have children because they are doubled in size, but he does not think there would be many at the new building. He said statistically only 10% of children live in the complexes, which means only four children may live at Brook View.

He said there would be a management company responsible for plowing, cutting the grass and maintaining the landscaping. He said there are bylaws in the unit that would limit hanging out clothes and items that would embarrass neighbors or hurt property value.

He addressed Caliguri’s comment that he likes living at Sunwood on the wetlands.

“Well, they filled those wetlands; obviously, before he bought it,” Bellis said. “We’re not proposing to fill the wetlands. He likes it now, but at some point, a developer had to build Sunwood, and they built it just 15 feet from the river.”

Caliguri addressed the P&Z again.

“You have an extremely aggressive development and you have happy people, a wonderful environment, and a great way of life. That’s basically the two things you have to choose from,” Caliguri said.

Planning consultant Anthony Panico said the property was all commercial at some point and is not residential in nature. He said they are forced to process what is the best.

Caliguri told the commission it has to make a decision with both a just and a moral thought process.

Panico responded to Caliguri’s comment.

“We had that very same sort of discussion when we entertained and approved condominium developments; people didn’t want the condominiums, too.”