Following a July 17 public hearing, the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) approved the construction of an 18,750-square-foot mixed-use two-story building at a 2.35-acre site at 146 South Main Street (Route 25), in which the lower level would be commercial space and the upper level would hold up to ten rental apartments.
P&Z members unanimously approved the project known as The Summit at Newtown submitted by Summit Properties Group LLC of Norwalk. The site is on the west side of South Main Street, across that street from Newtown Self-Storage.
In February, the P&Z had approved an earlier version of the project, which would have been all commercial space, including stores and offices. But in order to secure financing for the construction project, the developer modified the project’s plans to include rental apartments which would comprise up to half of the building’s square footage.
In June, the P&Z had modified the zoning regulations covering the B-1 and B-2 (Business) zones to allow up to half the square footage of such new commercial buildings to be apartments.
Developers have sought to build on the South Main Street site for more than a decade, submitting various commercial construction plans, which for one reason or another have failed to materialize.
At the July 17 public hearing, John Reyes of Summit Properties told P&Z members that the firm wants to construct ten rental apartments on the upper level of the building with each apartment having roughly 1,000 square feet of floor area.
The zoning rule changes that were approved by the P&Z in June allow such apartments to range in size from 800 to 1,200 square feet in area.
Mr Reyes told P&Z members that there is a local need for the type of residential rental units planned for the site.
Summit Properties would own the building and also manage the property, Mt Reyes said, noting that the firm has about 100 apartments in Springfield, Mass.
George Benson, town director of planning and land use, said that the number of rental apartments that would be allowed at 146 South Main Street would depend upon the site’s ability to handle septic waste disposal through a septic system.
The town Health Department would need to review the matter, he said, adding that the maximum possible number of apartments would be ten units.
The area is not served by the central municipal sanitary sewer system.
The engineer for the project is working with the Health Department on the waste disposal issue, Mr Reyes said.
Mr Reyes said Summit Properties wants to have three or four tenants occupy the lower level of the building.
The structure would be built on a hillside, with access to the commercial lower level provided at the front of the building and access to the residential upper level provided at the rear. Side driveways at the site would slope upward toward the rear of the building.
As currently planned, the building would not have an elevator because there would be ground-level walk-in access to both the lower level and the upper level.
Several residents from the Cedar Hill Road residential neighborhood attended the public hearing to comment on The Summit at Newtown project.
Cedar Hill Road links Apple Blossom Lane to Brushy Hill Road. The eastern end of Cedar Hill Road passes behind the 146 South Main Street site.
James Higinbotham of 10 Cedar Hill Road told P&Z members that he is concerned about the proximity of the planned building to his property.
He raised the issues of additional noise, an influx of approximately 20 new neighbors, and additional traffic in the area. Also, the planned new development would not benefit property values in the area, he said.
Any additional traffic that travels on South Main Street is an issue, he said, adding that the street is a dangerous place to drive.
Stephen Ugolik of 11 Cedar Hill Road, who has lived there for 45 years, said that his property has a common rear boundary with 146 South Main Street.
The presence of the new building will have an adverse effect on the neighborhood, he said. The presence of the new structure will result in the need for additional municipal services in terms of public education, police protection, and traffic, he said.
Mr Ugolik said that much rock ledge exists on the 146 South Main Street site.
“I don’t want ten new neighbors in my backyard,” he said.
He urged that the P&Z keep such development as strictly commercial development without a residential component.
“We don’t welcome apartments… Keep it commercial… and the whole neighborhood would be happy,” he said.
Clinton Stephens of 17 Cedar Hill Road said, “I don’t think we need apartments.”
P&Z Chairman Robert Mulholland said the Summit application meets the intent of applicable zoning regulations.
The Summit site would have appropriate visual screening and landscaping in light of nearby property owners’ concerns, he said. Plans calls for the erection of a tall visual-screening fence between the rear of the Summit property and adjacent Cedar Hill Road properties.
“Smaller apartments are definitely needed in Newtown,” Mr Mulholland said.
Having some apartments at the site, instead of completely commercial development, would reduce the potential traffic flow generated by the development, he said.
P&Z member Donald Mitchell said that 1,000-square-foot apartments “would not overload municipal services.”
P&Z member James Swift asked how the presence of the Summit building would affect nearby property values.
Mr Benson responded that apartments on the upper level would amount to a residential land use adjacent to an existing residential land use on Cedar Hill Road. Mr Benson said the P&Z does not address adjacent property values in reviewing such development proposals.
Mr Mulholland said the development would create no added traffic on Cedar Hill Road, noting that site access would be at South Main Street.
A lack of local smaller apartments results in the town losing its younger people and its older people who move away in seeking such quarters, according to Mr Benson.
Mr Benson added that the apartments planned by Summit do not fall under the category known as “affordable housing.”
P&Z member Frank Corigliano asked whether the apartments on the upper level of the building would have suitable secondary exits for residents to quickly leave the structure in the event of a fire.
In their unanimous vote to approve the project, P&Z members decided to modify Summit’s special permit to allow a residential use at the site.
P&Z members found that the application meets the standards for the B-2 (Business) zone and also conforms with the purpose and intent of the 2014 Town Plan of Conservation and Development.
The P&Z is requiring that the applicant receive approval from the Health Department for its septic system for the mixed commercial/residential project.