Condos approved for former lumber yard on Thorpe Street
FAIRFIELD — Already having received support from the neighbors, a 58-unit condo development for a former lumber yard has now won approval from the Town Plan and Zoning Commission.
One P&Z member, however, was vociferous in his opposition to the the proposal from Scinto Thorpe, LLC, to develop 5.5 acres at the end of Thorpe Street, once the home to Fairfield Lumber, and more recently, McClinch Equipment.
“You can say ‘No,’” Commissioner Jim Kennelly urged his colleagues at the May 23 meeting.
The application from Scinto called for a special permit and a zoning amendment that dropped the requirement the development be on a major road.
The commission voted 6 to 1 on the special permit, and 5 to 2 on the amendment and zone change. Kennelly was the sole “no” vote on the special permit, and was joined by Commissioner Seth Baratz on the amendment and zone change.
A fire hit the property in 2015, and Kennelly said it was wrong of the property owner to leave the burned-out building on the site and for the town to have allowed that. Instead, he said, the town should have insisted the building be demolished, rather than rewarding Scinto with “a cash-out for leaving it there” by approving the condo application.
“It’s a gorgeous marsh,” Kennelly said, adding that simply removing the burned building would improve the site and not make neighbors and the commission feel something needed to be approved for the property.
“I think its impact on the neighborhood is disastrous,” Kennelly said. “It really seems as though the burned-out hulk should be cleared and the cars removed and we can say ‘no’ to this developer.”
But Vice Chairman Gerry Alessi said he thought the proposal was a “change for the positive.”
The project, he explained, includes a “substantial” reduction in impervious surfaces, public access from Thorpe Street to the marsh, and upgrades to the sewer trunk line.
Six of the 58 units would be set aside as affordable — although the application was not made under the 8-30(g) statute on affordable housing — and there would be additional vehicular access to the property from Granville Street. The developer will also remediate asphalt encroachment onto town property by previous owners.
“We need to think long and hard about this parcel and what we can do,” Chairman Matthew Wagner said. “Nobody is going to touch this with a 10-foot pole because we won’t make a change. If the developer can’t do something with his property, it’s going to sit there for decades.”