Lawyers Oppose Main Street Multifamily Proposal
Two local attorneys, Eric DaSilva and Robert Hall, have informed the Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) that they oppose a developer’s controversial proposal to replace the former Inn At Newtown at 19 Main Street with a rental apartment complex, charging that such a change of use at the site would be inconsistent with the 2014 Town Plan of Conservation and Development, among other objections.
At an October 3 P&Z meeting, members learned that the two attorneys’ detailed letters to the P&Z were written in response to the Borough Zoning Commission’s (BZC) request for formal P&Z comment on developer 19 Main Street LLC’s proposal to create new borough zoning regulations that would allow a multifamily complex.
P&Z Chairman Don Mitchell asked that P&Z members read the two attorneys’ letters and any other letters submitted on the topic in order to be prepared for a discussion on the multifamily proposal at the November 7 P&Z meeting. At that session, the P&Z’s recommendations to the BZC on the matter would be formulated.
Developer 19 Main Street LLC has proposed a set of multifamily housing regulations, known as the Borough Residential Overlay District (BROD) zone, and also has requested a change of zone for the 3.002-acre site from R-1 (Residential) to BROD. The inn operated at the site until it suddenly closed for business in January 2016. The vacant 1820 building there has been deteriorating since the closure.
The developer has submitted to the BZC an architect’s “conceptual” rendering of the complex as it would appear from Main Street, and also a conceptual landscaped site plan for the property. The conceptual plans, which are subject to change, depict 40 dwellings located within three buildings.
In his October 2 letter to the P&Z, Mr DaSilva of 17 Main Street, which abuts 19 Main Street, writes that the P&Z should make a negative recommendation to the B&Z on the redevelopment proposal because the project is inconsistent with the Town Plan and because the proposal amounts to illegal spot zoning.
Mr DaSilva said October 10 that he represents himself in the matter. With his October 2 letter, Mr DaSilva submitted petitions bearing nearly 300 signatures of people who support his view on the matter. The number of signers has increased to 338, he said on October 10.
In an October 3 letter, Mr Hall, who is representing himself, also tells the P&Z that the proposal is inconsistent with the Town Plan.
Of Main’s Street’s character, Mr Hall said October 8, “It’s not your average Main Street... It defines the town, period.” Mr Hall owns 43 Main Street, a building next to Edmond Town Hall that holds his law offices and the Newtown General Store.
At the October 3 P&Z meeting, about 15 people sat in the audience as P&Z members discussed how they would proceed in making recommendations to the BZC on the redevelopment proposal. If the P&Z makes a negative recommendation, the BZC would then be required to have four out of five members, instead of three out of five members, vote in the affirmative to approve the 19 Main Street LLC application to create BROD zoning regulations.
BZC Chairman Douglas Nelson said October 9 that the BZC’s public hearing on the proposed BROD zoning regulations and on the proposed change of zone for 19 Main Street from R-1 to BROD is scheduled for 7 pm on Wednesday, November 13, at Newtown Community Center, 8 Simpson Street.
If those two applications are approved by the BZC, the developer would then need to return to the BZC with a proposed site development plan for another public hearing.
The developer has scheduled a public informational session on the proposal to create a rental apartment complex for 10 am to noon on Saturday, October 12, at Newtown Community Center. The project is known as 19 On Main Street Apartments.
At the October 3 P&Z session, Mr Mitchell told P&Z members that their advisory role to the BZC concerns whether the 19 Main Street LLC proposal is consistent with the Town Plan. Because the borough has no planning commission, it refers the planning aspects of such applications to the P&Z.
Mr Mitchell stressed to the about 15 people present in the audience that P&Z members will discuss the matter, but will not hold a public hearing on it.
The 37 owners of real estate who have holdings within 500 feet of the 19 Main Street site, will receive formal notice of any BZC public hearings via mailings sent by the applicant.
State law requires a public hearing on a zoning application to occur within 65 days of the application’s submission. However, that time period may be extended by up to another 65 days, if the applicant agrees to such an extension.
According to the conceptual site plan submitted to the BZC, 40 two-bedroom dwellings would each be approximately 1,200 square feet in floor area. At that size, the complex would contain about 48,000 square feet of living space. Also, there would be a total of 72 parking spaces, of which 22 spaces would be in the form of garage space on the bottom level of a larger apartment building located at the rear of the site. The other 50 spaces would be located outdoors behind the two apartment buildings positioned at the front of the site.
The western section of the site contains steep slopes and wetlands/watercourses, meaning that the project may require review by the Inland Wetlands Commission.
The property lies within the Borough of Newtown Historic District. The land also is covered by the BZC’s Village District (VD) zoning regulations. Both of those sets of rules concern the appearance of buildings and how proposed construction visually fits into the architectural context of the area.
The Borough Historic District Commission regulates proposed changes in the appearance of architecture that are visible from the street through the issuance of “certificates of appropriateness” to applicants. VD zoning is intended to promote aesthetics in development and redevelopment projects that complement the traditional appearance of nearby buildings.
The Borough of Newtown is a two-square-mile administrative district in the town center that levies annual property tax bills on its residents to cover certain municipal services. Besides taxation, the borough has its own set of zoning regulations, which were put in force long before the Town of Newtown enacted zoning in 1958. The 19 Main Street property is currently owned by DWR Company III LLC.
A letter to the editor from an owner of the site is published in today’s edition of The Newtown Bee.