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Facing questions, plans for Old Stratfield project yanked

Updated 7:11 am, Thursday, November 15, 2012

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  • A developer wants to tear down the two-family house, to the left, and the brick building on the right to build a three-story building for both commerical and residential use. Fairfield, CT 11/13/12 Photo: Genevieve Reilly / Fairfield Citizen
    A developer wants to tear down the two-family house, to the left, and the brick building on the right to build a three-story building for both commerical and residential use. Fairfield, CT 11/13/12 Photo: Genevieve Reilly

 

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A mixed-use development proposed for Old Stratfield Road, which sparked neighborhood opposition, was withdrawn Tuesday night from consideration by the Town Plan and Zoning Commission.

Joel Z. Green, the lawyer for M.G. Flynn Contracting, withdrew the application about an hour into the public hearing after commission members raised questions about the date of architectural drawings, and what they indicated was important information that appeared to be missing from the application.

Green withdrew the application before about a dozen neighbors had a chance to speak, but he spoke with neighbors, including several Representative Town Meeting members, after the meeting ended in McKinley School's cafeteria.

The development plan called for demolition of two structures on Old Stratfield Road -- a one-story office building at 428 Old Stratfield Road and a two-story residential building at 446-448 Old Stratfield Road -- and then constructing a three-story building to house offices on the first floor and a total of six two-story townhouses on the second and third floors.

The properties are owned by AEL Real Estate Group, LLC, which lists Michael G. Flynn of Wilson Road in Easton as its principal, according to town land records and the Secretary of the State's website. AEL bought the properties for a total of $900,000 in October 2004, according to land records.

The two structures to be demolished total about 6,000 square feet, while the proposed multi-use building would total about 11,000 square feet. Office space on the first floor of the proposed building would total 3,729 square feet, while the six two-story townhouses above it would total 7,350 square feet. Two of the townhouses would be classified as "affordable" housing under state income criteria, while the other four would be rented at market rates, Green said.

Seth Baratz, the TPZ vice chairman, said drawings for the proposed project were dated from two to two and one-half years ago. Bryan LeClerc, the chairman, said the drawings also were "inconsistent with each other."

"I think there may have been a different set of final drawings that didn't reach the commission," Green said.

Baratz said, "I'm concerned about what documents are before us."

Green replied, "As am I."

Earlier Gerald Alessi, a commission member, said, "I don't know if this building here harmonizes with the area ... How many three-story buildings are in this area?"

Peter Cummings, one of the applicant's consultants, said the proposed building has the appearance of a foundation and two stories due to Flynn's plan to lower the property's elevation by five feet. He said versions of the proposed building are "popping up in Norwalk."

TPZ member Pat Jacobson said neighbors to the rear of the property "are going to be tremendously affected by this building. Their view is basically going to be a view of a parking lot."

Cummings said Flynn and his consultants would work with neighbors to screen the proposed building, possibly with a 4- to 6-foot-high fence. "Your line of sight of the parking lot would just go away," he said. "If that needs to be put down, then by all means the fence will be part of the approval process." He added that mechanical units on the roof could be moved so neighbors wouldn't see them.

Alessi said drainage calculations didn't show how much runoff the property would take on after it was excavated to a depth of 5 feet. "One of the things we're trying to accomplish tonight is that your retention system is adequate," he said, adding that elevations of adjacent properties weren't shown.

Green said additional information on drainage, site lines and contours should be submitted to the commission. "We propose to withdraw the application this evening ... and then we will re-file the application responsive to questions raised," he said. "We look forward to coming back with an application that answers the questions."

After the meeting, Ruth Smey, a District 5 RTM member, said the proposed development is out of character with the neighborhood, which she said is mostly smaller residential homes. She said only three commercial buildings now stand on Old Stratfield Road and two were built in the mid-1920s before the town adopted zoning regulations.

Smey, a realty agent who's lived on Old Stratfield Road for 38 years, said property values would suffer if the development were built and that traffic on the road "is already horrendous."

"The neighborhood is already overloaded with traffic," she said.

Steve O'Connell, who lives on Pope Street, said many neighbors didn't get much notice about Tuesday night's public hearing. "I did this in the last two weeks, with the hurricane," O'Connell said, referring to the dozen neighbors who turned out for the hearing.

LeClerc said a public hearing on the revised application probably wouldn't take place before January because of other applications that need to be heard by the commission.

"We'll all be back," Smey said after the meeting ended.