Residents oppose proposed housing development

Residents came out in force to oppose a proposed 23-lot housing development at Booth Hill and Waverly roads.

“Huntington doesn’t need cluster development. Frankly, we don’t want it,” said Tom Emanual, who lives near the development site.

Like many speakers opposing the project at the May 23 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, Emanual said he favors keeping the area’s one-acre zoning, known as R-1.

Myrna Kalakay, another neighbor, said half-acre lots aren’t appropriate for the area. “I came here because I wanted one-acre zoning,” she said of moving to the neighborhood.

Kalakay and Douglas Thompson were among those who said water problems already exist in the vicinity. Thompson has four sump pumps in his basement and recently had 14 inches of rain there. “I was almost going to stock trout,” he said.

“Dig down,” Gary Thompson said, “and you’re going to have a problem.”

About 20 nearby residents spoke against the application. They worried about the impact on existing wells and septic systems, the nearby Far Mill River and reservoir, and the neighborhood’s rural roads.

They raised concerns about drainage, traffic and school capacity, and feared other large farms might soon be developed into small lots as well.

Developer John Paul wants to use the city’s new Design Residential Development (DRD) zone, which allows for more houses on smaller lots in return for setting aside extra open space, to develop most of the land. The DRD was enacted in 2017 and this is the first application.

The Booth Hill Estates plan would create 6.1 acres of city-owned open space, which applicant engineer James Swift said is “contiguous to a very valuable open space.” Swift said only 2.6 acres would have to be set aside if the entire property was developed under traditional subdivision rules.

The 22.6-acre property, previously a farm owned by the Patrick family, is close to considerable open space owned by the state and Aquarion Water Co.

Residents said the open space would be hard to access due to the lack of off-street parking and a viable pathway from a road.

Hybrid plan

Paul’s approach is a hybrid plan, with 17 lots to be done through the DRD — most about a half-acre in size — and six lots of at least an acre done through traditional subdivision rules.

“This project was almost specifically what the DRD was meant to do,” said Swift, explaining that a traditional subdivision on the entire parcel would be easier to pursue but would likely produce more runoff because of additional road, driveways and lawns.

Paul said he’s been working on the proposal for two years and it’s evolved, partly because the DRD’s cluster-type approach allows him to set aside a large open-space parcel in one spot. He said he’s spoken to neighbors and will continue to listen to their concerns.

He plans to build “high-end, high-quality” four-bedroom homes from 2,250 to 2,850 square feet that would sell from $500,000 to $600,000. Paul said he’s built 24 homes in Shelton, including the successful Aspen Ridge condominiums on Commerce Drive, which received a national builders award.

Commission members asked how many additional lots the developer would get by using the DRD, and Swift said it’s in the two-to-three range.

The DRD requires that 30% of a property be set aside as open space compared to 10% in a normal subdivision.

Swift said the proposal avoids having a road off Waverly and puts all one-acre lots on the outside to retain the neighborhood’s character.

The homes would have individual septic systems, with preliminary approval received from the Naugatuck Valley Health District. A private dead-end road would be built off Booth Hill to access the 17 small lots. The DRD requires that new roads be private.

Aquarion concerns

Aquarion objected to the proposal in a letter, saying it “will have a negative impact on water quality in the Far Mill Reservoir.”

The Aquarion letter stated that the erosion control plan for the construction phase is inadequate and pointed out that the developer would need to get a state stormwater discharge permit. Swift agreed the state permit was needed.

Swift said the developer has since met with Aquarion officials to go over their objections and has made some adjustments, and now believes the company may revise its comments.

According to the Shelton Conservation Commission, it wasn’t consulted on how the open space was configured, suggested eliminating four specific lots, and had earlier supported having the city buy the entire parcel.

Paul said after an appraisal on the land was completed and a few initial options were discussed, city officials never pursued buying the property.

The developer has a pending application before the Inland Wetlands Commission.

At the hearing, many residents said they were unaware a new zone had been created to allow denser development in R-1 under certain circumstances.

“Why is this changing now?” asked neighbor Donna Bromley. “Who changed it from one-acre zoning to half-acre zoning?”

Don Pendagast, who’s lived in the neighborhood for 63 years, said people expect any development to be done on one-acre lots. “Keep it R-1,” he said.

Alderman Jim Capra said people in the area “enjoy that country setting” and the DRD is “inappropriate for Huntington.”

“R-1 or bust,” neighborhood resident John Oberson said.