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Planning & Zoning Reviews Proposals



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Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) members covered considerable regulatory ground at their July 19 meeting, opening a public hearing on a proposed industrial building at Curtis Corporate Park in Sandy Hook; reviewing a developer's compliance with the past terms of approval for a multifamily housing complex, including affordable housing; and holding a public hearing on a now-defunct proposed change of zone in Hawleyville, which sought to convert 5.3 acres of residentially-zoned land to commercial zoning.Edona CommonsChange Of Zone

P&Z members convened a public hearing on a Bethel firm's proposal to construct an 8,300-square-foot industrial building at 3 Turnberry Lane, off Toddy Hill Road.

A firm known as 3 Turnberry Lane LLC has submitted the proposal for a 1.01-acre lot in a M-4 (Industrial) zone. The site is on the north side of the dead-end Turnberry Lane, and it is within the town's Aquifer Protection District (APD). The applicant purchased the lot in April for $130,000.

The proposed structure would hold four tenants. Lawn Doctor LLC, a lawn maintenance firm, would occupy 3,000 square feet of commercial space, plus 800 square feet of office space. There also would be three separate 1,500-square-foot spaces suitable for occupancy by tradesman, such as plumbers and electricians.

Rob Sibley, town deputy planning director, has determined that the project requires an aquifer protection review because the site is in the APD. The P&Z created the APD in June 1999 to safeguard water quality in the underlying Pootatuck Aquifer, the town's sole source aquifer, providing potable water to two public water supplies and to widespread individual domestic water wells.

Members of the Inland Wetlands Commission (IWC), who also serve as the Aquifer Protection Agency (APA), review aquifer protection reports submitted by applicants and then make recommendations to the P&Z.

Site conditions do not require a wetlands/watercourses protection permit for the property.

Civil engineer Steve Trinkaus of Trinkaus Engineering LLC of Southbury is the agent for the applicant. The proposed single-story structure would be served by two driveways extending from Turnberry Lane. The property would hold 26 parking spaces, with the potential for a total of 30 spaces. Potable water for the property would be provided by a drilled well. An existing fire water supply system in that area would be used for fire protection. Wastewater disposal would be handled by a septic system.

At the July 19 P&Z public hearing, Mr Trinkaus described the project for the sandy terrain to P&Z members. The proposed building would have metal walls and a metal roof. The structure's two-tone color scheme would be similar to that of other structures in the 13-lot industrial park.

P&Z member Jim Swift said he plans to tour the site to get a sense of the geography.

In a July 10 letter to Mr Sibley, Mr Trinkaus noted that he has submitted for APA review copies of a December 2008 aquifer protection report for 3 Turnberry Lane, which was prepared by hydrogeologist Russell G. Slayback for Goodhouse Flooring LLC. The flooring firm had proposed doing business at 3 Turnberry Lane, but its project never materialized.

Mr Trinkaus wrote that there are similarities between the Goodhouse and Lawn Doctor development proposals, and thus he submitted the aquifer protection review, which had been performed for the flooring firm nearly a decade ago. That report states that the flooring firm did not need to formulate any emergency plans to protect against and control leaks and spills of hazardous materials.

APA members would determine whether the current applicant must have a new aquifer protection review performed.

Following their August 8 IWC meeting, IWC members are expected to convene as the APA and consider the aquifer report submitted by Mr Trinkaus.

In another matter, P&Z members conducted their fourth public hearing on Danbury developer Guri Dauti's conformity with the P&Z's June 2011 terms of approval for Edona Commons, a 26-unit condominium complex at a 4.5-acre site at 95 & 99 Church Hill Road in Sandy Hook Center.

Mr Dauti, doing business as Dauti Construction LLC, is seeking P&Z approval for the as-built plans for the complex, which is situated on a steep site that overlooks the intersection of Church Hill Road and Dayton Street.

In 2009, after years of conflict between the P&Z and Dauti, a court ruled against the P&Z and the Water & Sewer Authority (WSA) in two lawsuits brought against them by Dauti Construction. That victory led to the court-imposed construction of Edona Commons under the terms of the state's Affordable Housing Appeals Act.

Newtown, among other municipalities, is under a state mandate to increase its stock of affordable housing.The site contains eight dwellings designated as affordable housing.

On May 3, 2018, the P&Z started its review of Dauti's as-built plans, which include many field changes that were made following the P&Z's approval of the project. At that session, P&Z members called for Mr Dauti to construct a concrete sidewalk along the driveway that leads to the upper level of the complex, as was required by the plans. The developer then promptly built that sidewalk.

But there were many other field changes made to the project following its 2011 P&Z approval, including landscaping features and retaining walls.

Other design changes concerned the presence of a very steep grade along a relatively short section of the project's emergency accessway. While the average grade of the 12-foot-wide, 360-foot-long emergency accessway is 14.7 percent, a 22-foot-long section of that accessway has a 19 percent grade.

On July 19, Mr Swift raised a variety of issues with Mr Trinkaus about Edona Commons' compliance with the P&Z's requirements. Mr Trinkaus represents Mr Dauti.

Mr Swift asked why Mr Dauti did not place gravel-filled pavers on the emergency accessway, as specified by the P&Z, but instead used asphalt pavement there. Mr Trinkaus responded that fire officials wanted an asphalt emergency accessway. Mr Swift said that the developer never informed the P&Z of that design change.

Mr Swift then stressed that the developer has not met the P&Z's requirements on the accessway. Mr Trinkaus responded that if Mr Dauti does not receive a final approval for the project's as-built plans from the P&Z, legal action would be filed against the P&Z.

Mr Swift asked why Dauti did not build a rain garden on the site as was specified by the plans. Additionally, Mr Swift criticized the appearance of the lower section of Edona Commons, which contains three condos adjacent to Church Hill Road, characterizing the side of the structure that faces Church Hill Road as an "eyesore."

Mr Swift urged that the developer add some stone veneer to that side of the multifamily building, similar to the veneer affixed to that building's façade. Due to the structure's orientation, the façade does not face the street to the south, but faces eastward. Mr Trinkaus suggested that the developer could affix some window shutters to the south side of the building and place some plantings there to soften its appearance.

P&Z members are scheduled to conduct a fifth hearing on Edona Commons on August 2, when they are expected to act on a motion, with conditions, concerning Dauti's requested approval of the as-built plans.

In another matter at the July 19 session, the P&Z held a lengthy public hearing on Starhawk Properties LLC's proposal to rezone 5.3 acres of a 15-acre residential property at 7 Taunton Lane from R-1 (Residential) and R-2 (Residential) to B-2 (General Business), so that those 5.3 acres could then become suitable for commercial development as a physical extension of a 2.46-acre commercially-zoned lot at 117 Mount Pleasant Road. The Mount Pleasant Road site holds a dance studio and an industrial firm.

The 7 Taunton Lane property owned by The Estate of Charles Speidel contains a large house built in 2011 to recreate a house there that had been destroyed by fire.

At the hearing, many Taunton Lane area residents firmly told P&Z members that they do not want residential property there converted into commercial property for commercial growth. Issues raised included possible adverse effects on nearby residential property values, increased traffic, child safety, and the presence of a commercial building in a residential area.

On July 23, in the face of the stiff opposition to the requested change of zone, a lawyer for Starhawk Properties withdrew the application from P&Z consideration.

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