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Totalling 235 Units -Land Use Agencies Get Plans ForTwo Condominium Projects



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Totalling 235 Units –

Land Use Agencies Get Plans For

Two Condominium Projects

By Andrew Gorosko

A development firm has submitted preliminary applications to borough and town land use agencies for the construction of two separate major multi-family housing complexes for people over 55 on Mt Pleasant Road – one near Taunton Lake, and the other in Hawleyville.

The two complexes would contain a total 235 condominium units, with an overall developed value of roughly $80 million.

The complex proposed for Taunton Lake is already drawing opposition from nearby residents.

In applications submitted March 29, Ginsburg Development Connecticut, LLC, a New York State-based developer, is seeking some of the many regulatory approvals that would be required for the two projects. The housing units in both complexes would be for sale, not for rent.

One project, which would contain 110 attached two-story townhouses, would be constructed on a 36-acre site on Mt Pleasant Road, near Taunton Lake. Most of the site is in the borough. The property, now owned by the Grossman family, extends from Mt Pleasant Road to the lake. The sloped site lies generally west of the Taunton Lake Drive neighborhood. It is outside the municipal sewer district, but is adjacent to the sewer district.

Ginsburg had sought Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA) approval last year to extend sewers from the central sewer system to the site but encountered a stumbling block. WPCA members last June told Ginsburg that extending sewers to the site was not a town priority, but told the development firm that if it could convince town officials that there is “major public benefit” in creating such age-restricted housing on the site, the WPCA would reconsider its position about extending sewers to the property.

When Ginsburg sought WPCA approval last year for developing the Taunton site, it encountered opposition from neighborhood residents, who said such a complex would damage Taunton Lake, a relatively clean body of water that formerly was used as a public drinking water supply reservoir.

The Taunton Lake project is again drawing opposition from nearby property owners. There are more than 90 properties within 500 feet of the site.

Taunton Neighbors

In a prepared statement, Gene Goodmaster of Taunton Lake Road, president of the Taunton Lake Association, criticizes the proposed high-density development. The association is comprised of individuals and organizations that own land along the lake.

“There is a great deal of opposition to changing the zoning to fulfill the interests of this developer. We strongly feel 110 condominiums is wrong for the borough and Newtown. A high-density project is particularly unsuitable for this location due to its fragile environment, which is situated on Taunton Lake and includes wetlands. A condominium complex is not consistent with the character of the borough and the surrounding area,” he writes.

Mr Goodmaster adds such a project would intensify traffic congestion problems and pose road safety issues. The project also poses potential public health and safety issues, he says. The project could also potentially have an indirect but significant impact on local school enrollment, according to Mr Goodmaster.

“Ultimately, we believe that there would be a great deal more negative impact from condominium development on this parcel of land, versus leaving the property at its current one-acre zoning,” he adds.

“Newtown has always prided itself on preserving the quality of life of the community and has been vigilant about maintaining its character and protecting its natural resources. We hope that big developers aren’t allowed to compromise our community,” he writes.

In response to the Taunton Lake neighbors’ opposition, Thomas Gissen, executive vice president of Ginsburg Development Connecticut, LLC, said Tuesday that neighbors are correct to be concerned about change in their area. During the public hearing process, Ginsburg will fully address the concerns raised about its proposal, he said.

The firm will provide thorough analyses concerning the project’s effect on traffic, wetlands, and Taunton Lake, he said. There would be a substantial buffer area between residential buildings and Taunton Lake, he said.

The firm will show that its proposed development would have a positive effect on the town and the public school system, he said.

Mr Gissen said the firm is optimistic it will receive the required approvals to construct both proposed complexes. “We are hopeful. Each of them are excellent plans when viewed objectively,” he said.

In its application to the Borough Zoning Commission for the Taunton Lake project, Ginsburg seeks to create a new borough zoning regulation that would allow the construction of multi-family residential complexes with two-story buildings for people over 55. The Ginsburg proposal would create a new zoning designation for such complexes, and would convert the current one-acre residential zoning at the Grossman property to the new zoning designation. The firm calls its proposal a “planned active adult community.”

The proposed borough zoning regulations state that if a connection to sanitary sewers were not available, wastewater from the complex would be discharged into large-scale septic systems on the site.

Residences would be set back at least 50 feet from internal streets. No single building could exceed 200 feet in length. Buildings could contain up to four residences. Each unit would have individual entrances. Buildings would have to be at least 20 feet apart. All public utilities would be located underground.

The proposed borough zoning regulations contain sections on design standards, roads, parking, sidewalks, lighting, and landscaping.

Jean St Jean, the borough zoning official, said the Borough Zoning Commission will refer the applications from Ginsburg to the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) for recommendations. Because the borough has no planning agency, it submits such applications to the P&Z, which serves as the borough’s planning agency. The borough zoners, however, are not bound by recommendations made by the P&Z.

Ms St Jean said she expects the Borough Zoning Commission will address the Ginsburg applications for the Taunton Lake project sometime in May.


Hawleyville Site

The Hawleyville project, which would contain 125 attached townhouses, would be built on a 40-acre site at 178 Mt Pleasant Road, just east of the Bethel town line. The property is west of The Homesteads at Newtown, an elderly housing complex. 

The P&Z is expected to consider the preliminary applications for the Ginsburg project sometime in May.

In 1999, Avalon Bay Communities, Inc., a major apartment developer, had proposed building 304 rental apartments at the site, but Avalon dropped plans to do so in October 1999, after encountering a stumbling block in getting WPCA approvals for sanitary sewer connections.

Ginsburg has not yet approached the WPCA about obtaining sewer service for the Hawleyville site, Mr Gissen said.

In its preliminary applications to the P&Z, Ginsburg seeks to modify the town’s EH-10 zoning regulations, which apply to elderly housing complexes. Ginsburg also seeks to convert the zoning for the Hawleyville site to EH-10. The current zoning there is largely R-2 Residential, which requires at least two acres of land for construction of a single-family home.

In its proposal, Ginsburg seeks regulations that would allow second stories and walkout basements. Existing town EH-10 zoning regulations require that all living space be on one level.

Also, Ginsburg is seeking to reduce the minimum separation distances between buildings in such complexes from the current 40 feet to 20 feet.

In a statement to the P&Z, Ginsburg says the Hawleyville project would contribute to the town’s economic well being because it would increase the property tax base, but would require little in the way of town services, such as schools and roads.

On the issue of wastewater disposal, Ginsburg states it would be willing to cover some or all of the cost of buying additional sewage treatment capacity from the City of Danbury, if such added treatment capacity is deemed necessary for the construction of the proposed complex. The town has a contract with Danbury for the daily disposal of up to 150,000 gallons of wastewater from the Hawleyville sewer system at the Danbury sewage treatment plant.

An existing public water line along Mt Pleasant Road would be extended about 1,500 feet westward to serve the complex, according to Ginsburg.

In its application to the P&Z, Ginsburg states there are about 11,000 vehicle trips per day on Mt Pleasant Road at the Newtown-Bethel town line. Approximately 850 vehicles per hour pass the site during the morning and evening peak travel hours, it adds. A new complex would generate about 60 vehicle trips during the peak morning travel hour, and about 75 vehicle trips during the peak evening travel hour, it adds. On a daily basis, there would be about 400 vehicle trips into the complex and 400 vehicle trips out of the complex, it states. Traffic generated by the complex would not adversely affect traffic conditions on Mt Pleasant Road, according to Ginsburg.

 The posted speed limit in the area is 45 miles per hour. Typical travel speeds in the area are about 50 mph.


Mr Gissen has described the two proposed developments as “age-restricted, townhome luxury condominium active-adult communities.” The Taunton Lake and Hawleyville complexes would consist of many scattered buildings, each of which would contain either two or four residences. The buildings would have staggered facades to break up the outline of the structures. Each site would have a clubhouse/recreation building to serve as a focal point for residents’ social interaction.

Mr Gissen has said Ginsburg would develop the sites either in sequence or simultaneously, depending upon regulatory approvals and market conditions. Each of the two sites would take about two years to develop.

Rules would require that at least one spouse of couples who live in the complexes is at least 55 years old. School-age children would not be allowed, so there would be no need to provide public education for the residents, Mr Gissen has said. The typical age for purchasers of homes in such complexes is 62, according to Mr Gissen.

The price of units would range from the “low $200,000s” for a basic unit, to the “mid-$400,000s” for a larger, more elaborate unit, he has said.

The sale value of the each of the complexes would range from $35 million to $45 million, meaning that the combined value of the two complexes would range from $70 million to $90 million, for a combined overall sale value of roughly $80 million, Mr Gissen has said.

The quality and type of construction on the two sites would be similar, he said. Units would range from 1,500 to 3,000 square feet. There would be four types of units at each site. Units would have either one-bay or two-bay attached garages.

Plans for the two complexes call for townhouses in which all main rooms would be on the ground level. A second story would contain additional rooms. The units would have full basements, most of which would be walkout basements.

Mr Gissen described the general architectural style of the units as “rambling capes.”

Ginsburg Development Corporation of Hawthorne, N.Y., has done extensive development in Westchester County, including condominiums, cooperative apartments, single family homes, apartments, and commercial development. Martin and Samuel Ginsburg are co-principals in the firm.

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