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BZC Hearing Slated On Main Street Multifamily Proposal



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Residents interested in offering their views on a land developer’s controversial proposal to raze the former Inn at Newtown at 19 Main Street and replace it with several buildings comprising a market-rate rental apartment complex will have an opportunity to comment when the Borough Zoning Commission (BZC) holds a public hearing on the matter next week.

The hearing is slated for 7 pm on Thursday, November 14, in the Alexandria Room at Edmond Town Hall, 45 Main Street.

The inn site, which had served as local benefactress Mary Hawley’s homestead in the past, until January 2016 had been The Inn at Newtown, when it suddenly closed. Since then, the wood-frame structure positioned on the 3.002-acre site has been deteriorating. The property is owned by DWR Company III LLC.

The Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z), which serves as the Borough of Newtown’s planning agency, was scheduled to meet on the night of November 7 to review and make recommendations to the BZC on the two preliminary applications for the redevelopment project. That P&Z session, however, was scheduled to occur after the deadline for the November 8 print edition of The Newtown Bee.

The P&Z members’ review of the redevelopment proposal involves whether the pending application is consistent with the 2014 Town Plan of Conservation and Development’s section that covers the Borough of Newtown.

Two local attorneys who own property on Main Street — Eric DaSilva and Robert Hall — submitted letters to the P&Z voicing strong opposition to the redevelopment proposal, with both men charging that the project is inconsistent with the Town Plan. Mr DaSilva also submitted a petition bearing the names of roughly 300 people in opposition to the proposal.

In response, in an October 16 letter to the P&Z, attorney Peter Olson, representing the developer, explains why the redevelopment proposal is consistent with the Town Plan.

In its application, 19 Main Street LLC seeks to create two regulatory mechanisms that would then allow it to apply to construct a rental apartment complex.

The developer is seeking a “text amendment” to the borough zoning regulations, which would add wording to those rules providing for a Borough Residential Overlay District (BROD). The BROD wording would specify rules on high-density multifamily construction. Also, the developer is seeking a “zone map amendment,” through which the BROD zoning regulations would be applied to 19 Main Street as the site for a multifamily complex. The site now has Residential (R) zoning.

If the developer receives BZC approvals for those two applications, the developer would then formulate an “engineered plan” of its project, which would be the basis for it seeking a special zoning permit, as well as a site development plan approval and a Village District (VD) zoning approval.

Additionally, the developer would need approval from the Borough Historic District Commission and possibly an approval from the Inland Wetlands Commission.

For illustrative purposes, the developer has publicly displayed a “conceptual plan” for the project, which is known as 19 On Main Street Apartments. That concept involves 40 rental apartments, which would rent at $2,500 to $3,000 monthly, situated within three buildings at the site. A spokesman for the developer has said that 40 is the minimum number of market-rate rental units required for an economically viable project.

The subject of the BZC’s November 14 public hearing, however, is not the conceptual plan, but the two proposed regulatory mechanisms that the developer would need to formulate an engineered plan for such a project.

At a recent informational session, the developer’s spokesmen said they want to design a project that fits the Main Street locale. They solicited suggestions from those attending the October 12 meeting on how to do so.

However, some stiff opposition came from audience members who said they do not want a rental apartment complex built at the site, when considering the property’s history, the traffic implications, and its location on Main Street amid a neighborhood comprised mostly of single-family houses.

According to the conceptual plan, the proposed 40 apartments would each be approximately 1,200 square feet in floor area. Thus, 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 parking spaces would be located outdoors behind two smaller apartment buildings positioned at the front of the site.

Considering the complexity of the application scheduled to be discussed on November 14, it may require more than one BZC session to complete the hearing.

Shown is a “conceptual site plan” from PH Architects, not drawn to scale, which depicts the 3.002-acre lot at 19 Main Street where a developer wants to demolish the former Inn at Newtown and replace it with a three-building rental apartment complex. The vertical bar at the right is Main Street. In this concept, the three buildings would contain a total of 40 rental apartments. The section of the lot shown at left has a steep slope and wetlands.
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