Todd Road proposal brings traffic, retail excess concerns

Some Planning and Zoning Commission members raised questions about traffic and the need for more retail space during an applicant's presentation for a small retail building at Platt and Todd roads.

Member James Tickey wondered if Platt Road could handle the increased traffic and how the project might impact the success of existing or approved retail stores on Bridgeport Avenue, a main commercial corridor.

Alternate Nancy Dickal said a major shopping center exists just across Bridgeport Avenue and traffic congestion already is a problem. "Traffic is our number one issue," she said at the June 12 P&Z meeting.

Member Mark Widomski asked if the developer had conducted a study on the need for more retail in the vicinity to indicate "this will be successful." He said an office use might be better at the location.

But Chairman Virginia Harger countered the P&Z's role isn't to determine whether a building will be successful, but rather whether it meets zoning requirements and is consistent with the master plan.

Member Elaine Matto said the commission can't predict if projects will succeed, noting most commercial applications involve "speculative development."

The developer's architect, John Guedes, said the project would cost about $3 million to complete. "We understand the risk we're taking because we're putting up the dollars," he said.

Applicant engineer Joseph Pereira said retail makes the most sense for the site due to its proximity to, and visibility from, Bridgeport Avenue.

One resident told the P&Z many storefronts are empty on Bridgeport Avenue.

The developer, Manuel Moutinho, wants to construct a one-story, 10,170-square-foot building with up to eight storefronts on 1.2-acres. There would be a driveway on Platt Road and as many as 60 parking spaces, which is more than required.

A modern drainage system would be added. A retaining wall would be built along Todd and Platt to create a flat development site. The building would be in the middle of the rectangular-shaped parcel, with the parking lot surrounding it.

The developer is seeking to create a Planned Development District on the land, which is zoned for offices and previously housed an industrial building that was turned into a fitness center. A fire destroyed the building about a dozen years ago and remnants of the structure and parking lot remain.

Staff has raised concerns about having only one driveway but the applicant's traffic engineer expects the development to generate less than 50 vehicle trips per hour at peak retail times. Pereira said that's minimal compared to all the cars using Bridgeport Avenue daily.

Tickey said the number of vehicles going into the site could vary greatly depending on the kind of tenants it attracts. Pereira said prospective tenants are unknown as of now.

The public hearing on the application was closed so no more input will be accepted. The site's address is 6 Todd Road.

Moutinho, the developer and owner of Mark IV Construction in Bridgeport, has been controversial at times. The city of Bridgeport built a driveway section to his private home in Stratford's Lordship section as part of a Sikorsky Memorial Airport improvement project, and he was involved in lawsuits pertaining to his company's work on a sewer installation project in Trumbull.

New Scinto signs

The P&Z approved roadside signs for R.D. Scinto Inc.'s new retail development at Bridgeport Avenue and Commerce Drive.

The sign request had become somewhat complicated because the site's legal address is 110 Commerce Drive and P&Z members were worried about not using a Bridgeport Avenue address for the sign on Bridgeport Avenue. The property borders both roads.

They thought having a Commerce Drive street address highlighted on a sign along Bridgeport Avenue would lead to confusion, especially for out-of-towners.

As a compromise, the sign on Bridgeport Avenue will not include a street address but instead feature the shopping complex's name, CX Plaza. CX is the Roman numeral for 110. The sign on Commerce Drive will include the street address of 110 Commerce Drive.

Robert D. Scinto attended the meeting to seek permission for the signs, with the request having been tabled at a previous meeting. "It's going to be very well done," Scinto told the P&Z.

Sign applications often can lead to long discussions by the P&Z. A number of factors can come into play, such as a desire for uniformity, avoiding tackiness and driver distraction, and the need for street address visibility and clarity to assist emergency responders.