Year In Review: Land Use Proposals Increased During 2014
In early 2014, the updated Town Plan of Conservation and Development, as well as the updated Fairfield Hills Master Plan, took effect, providing the town with a set of planning guidelines for the coming years on local growth and resource conservation, both in the town at large and at the town-owned 185-acre Fairfield Hills core campus.
The town plan is updated decennially. The Fairfield Hills plan is updated as needed.
The town plan lists a broad range of planning goals covering: community character, conservation, natural resources, open space, housing, economic development, community facilities, and transportation, among others.
The Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) typically cites whether a given development proposal adheres to or conflicts with the tenets of the town plan when, respectively, approving or rejecting such proposals.
The Fairfield Master Plan focuses on future potential uses of the core campus, which the town bought from the state for $3.9 million in 2004.
In late December, P&Z members were considering the details of the largest residential subdivision proposal submitted to them for review in many years.
Developers KASL, LLC, and IBF, LLC, propose The Preserve at Newtown for 167 acres in Dodgingtown. Submitted under the terms of P&Z’s open space conservation subdivision (OSCS) zoning regulations, the project would create 23 house lots. The houses would be arrayed in two clusters and about one half of the acreage would be left as undeveloped open space. P&Z created the OSCS rules to limit suburban sprawl.
Residents living near the site proposed for development have told P&Z members they fear that the presence of new water wells for new houses in the area would diminish their already unreliable domestic water well supplies. The P&Z is slated to resume its public hearing on the subdivision proposal on January 15.
Late in 2014, P&Z members were considering creating a new set of zoning regulations on multifamily housing complexes that would contain an affordable housing component.
P&Z members are considering the proposal to create Mixed-Use, Mixed-Income-10 Overlay Zone (MUMI-10) zoning regulations as a mechanism to potentially avoid having developers challenge the town’s existing Affordable Housing Development Overlay Zone (AHD) regulations in state court, and most likely prevail in legal actions brought under the terms of the Affordable Housing Appeals Act.
While the MUMI-10 regulations would provide developers with a commercial component in such housing complexes, the rules also would provide the P&Z with some control over the design aspects of such complexes.
The MUMI-10 regulations would cover a 35-acre site at 79 Church Hill Road for which developer Serge Papageorge, doing business as 79 Church Hill Road, LLC, plans to submit a multifamily development application. The town has identified six other sites in Hawleyville where MUMI-10 zoning rules might apply.
In another land use matter, town officials at two December forums asked residents whether allowing rental apartments at Fairfield Hills is a good idea.
While many town officials apparently consider having such apartments an acceptable land use at Fairfield Hills, numerous residents opposed the idea, claiming that the adverse effects of such development would outweigh the positive aspects.
P&Z in July unanimously approved redevelopment plans for the planned new Sandy Hook Elementary School at 12 Dickinson Drive, off Riverside Road. The new school would replace the former Sandy Hook School, which the town demolished in 2013. Site development work is underway at the property where classes are slated to resume for the 2016-17 school year.
In recent weeks, site development work began for a 3,400-square-foot gas station/convenience store planned for construction at the site of former Shell gas station at 67 Church Hill Road.
In 2016, the state plans to start road construction nearby for the realignment of Edmond Road. That project will result in the southern end of Edmond Road being shifted westward, so that Edmond Road, Church Hill Road, and Commerce Road are aligned in a conventional four-way intersection controlled by a traffic signal. The $4 million project is planned to improve travel safety in a area which has a high accident rate.
During the past several months, construction has proceeded on a 26,000-square-foot medical office building at 146 Mt Pleasant Road in Hawleyville, known as Maplewood Medical Center. That project is adjacent to Newtown Woods, a planned 178-unit age-restricted condominium complex now under construction.
Also under construction is Lexington Gardens at 30-32 Church Hill Road. Plans call for adding 60,500 square feet of new commercial space at 32 Church Hill Road in the form of one 28,000-square-foot structure, two segmented 13,000-square-foot buildings, and one 6,500-square-foot structure.
The existing flat-roofed, two-story, red-brick 16,000-square-foot commercial building at 30 Church Hill Road will receive a variety of external improvements to enhance its appearance, making it visually complementary to the planned new construction at 32 Church Hill Road.
In other land use news, in late 2014, the state Department of Transportation finished work on the $6 million replacement of two Interstate 84 bridges, which cross above Center Street in the Riverside section of Sandy Hook. During the 18-month demolition/construction process, traffic on I-84 was diverted as needed to provide space for the construction to proceed.
Starting in the spring, the DOT plans to start renovating the Silver Bridge, a steel-truss span that crosses Lake Zoar, linking Glen Road Sandy Hook to River Road in Southbury. As part of the $4.5 million project, the bridge, which has been painted brown for decades, will be repainted a silvery color.
Late in 2014, the town completed work on replacing the two-lane vehicular bridge on Poverty Hollow Road that crosses the Aspetuck River, near the Redding town line. The wide new bridge replaces a decaying, antiquated span. The project resulted in extensive detours for several months while construction was underway.
In February, voters at a town meeting approved spending $2.8 million to expand the existing Hawleyville sanitary sewer system. The expansion is planned to spur economic development in the area near Exit 9 of I-84.