Neighbors say ‘no’ to proposed office building in Southport
FAIRFIELD — A small office building proposal has caused a big outcry from the neighbors in Southport.
The Town Plan and Zoning Commission finished up a public hearing earlier this month for the two-story, 3,440 square foot building at 65 Station St. No decision has been made on the application.
While the applicant claimed their study and analysis showed sufficient parking and no adverse effect on traffic, neighbors said that was not the case. They also were concerned about their property values.
The property is adjacent to the Southport Train Station, and the bulk of it is located in a business district, with a portion in a residential district.
Eileen Bohan owns the property at 51 Station St., next door to 65 Station St.
“One of my biggest concerns is safety, I’m very concerned about safety,” Bohan said. “I’m also very concerned about property values.” She said she has a rental unit there that will be up for lease, and she is concerned about being able to rent it if another office building is added.
The new building would be used by Penfield Marine, a company that is already located on the property.
“They’ve grown significantly,” Felix Charney, one of the principals in SF Station Street, LLC, the property owner. “They came to us and asked us if we could expand. This building we’ve been designing with them in mind.”
The business has 18 employees.
Charney said they often allow others the area, such as patrons of Paci Restaurant, to use their parking at night.
Jim Fagan, from Cushman and Wakefield, expressed support for the proposal and said the state is not as a vibrant as it once was and has been slow to accommodate new types of commerce. He said people who are now moving into the area “want stuff in their backyards.”
But George Russell, president of the Sasquanaug Association, said neighbors are very concerned about traffic and safety. He said the development is not on the Post Road, but rather on a very narrow road that is designated a scenic road.
“The whole interaction between Paci and railroad station people has already created a difficult situation,” he said.
Attorney Joel Green, who represents the Station Street Neighborhood Association, pointed out what he said were flaws in the application. He said because the rear of the neighborhood design district abuts a residential district, the residential rear setback of 30 feet must be used. John Fallon, the attorney for the applicant, argued that since the rear of their property abuts the side yard of the adjacent property, it is the side setback that would be used if it were greater than the required neighborhood district setback.
The side setback for the residential property is 7 feet; the neighborhood designed business district side setback is 10 feet and that is what is being provided, Fallon said.
Green said to require that the application must preserve and enhance the appearance and beauty of the neighborhood and said there is already “undue traffic congestion.”
Another point of debate was a turnaround requested by the fire marshal’s office so that fire trucks could turn around and not have to back down Station Street. A grassy area, reinforced with pavers, would be provided solely for that use in the residential portion of the property.
Chairman Matthew Wagner asked if that wasn’t an improvement to residential property that would benefit the commercial portion. Fallon argued that it wasn’t, and noted that regulations prohibit using the residential property to access the commercial property. The turnaround, he said, is not paved and is not a driveway.