TPZ says a quick no: Thorpe St. condo plan denied again
A revised plan to build a large condominium development on 6.7 acres at the western edge of downtown on Thorpe Street couldn't get off the drawing board Tuesday night.
The Town Plan and Zoning Commission voted 7-0 against sending the revised plan to a public hearing because members felt it wasn't substantially different from the plan rejected by the commission in May after strong neighborhood opposition.
If a revised application isn't substantially different from one rejected rearlier by the TPZ, the applicant has to wait 12 months to resubmit it, according to Town Planning Director Joseph Devonshuk Jr.
The revised plan called for 55 condominium units -- instead of 65 in the rejected plan -- and a slightly different number in proposed changes to town zoning regulations. Under the rejected plan, the total floor area of a development could be a maximum of 55 percent of the property's square footage as long as the land was formerly zoned for industrial use. In the revised plan, the total floor area could be a maximum of 50 percent of the property's square footage as long as the land was formerly zoned for industrial use.
"The main thing that has changed here is they've taken 10 units out of the proposal. It's now a 55-unit proposal," Assistant Town Planner James Wendt told the TPZ. "Their interpretation of the denial was there were too many units so they've cut it down by 10."
Devonshuk said he believed the commission's major reason for denying the earlier application was the density of the proposed condo development, but he added that the revised application, like the earlier one, included three requests -- to change the zoning classification of the land from industrial to residential, to change town zoning regulations to accommodate the development, and to permit its construction. He said the commission had to decide there was a substantial change to all three requests to warrant holding a hearing before 12 months had elapsed. The request to change the zoning classification of the land was identical to the earlier request, Wendt said.
James Kennelly, a commission member, said he didn't think an 8 percent to 10 percent decline in total floor area was substantial, and Gerald Alessi, another commission member, said town-owned property adjacent to the site -- contaminated by former industrial uses on the applicant's property -- still wouldn't be cleaned up. Alessi said he didn't think commission members should even look at the revised application until they knew the contaminated town land would be cleaned up.
In addition to density, commission members in May cited as reasons for denying the earlier application the potential for increased traffic on the dead-end street off the Post Road in downtown Fairfield and the importance of getting the town-owned land cleaned up.
The property was home to a lumberyard for decades and, at some point in the 1960s, the lumberyard owner filled about an acre of a town-owned salt marsh and paved and fenced it in. Terrance McClinch and Ernest Pierson, the current owners of the property, offered to pay $200,000 to the town to help with cleaning up the town-owned land, saying they shouldn't be responsible for the entire cost since the prior owner filled and paved it.
Commission member Douglas Soutar said the reduction from 65 to 55 units was a substantial change, but added, "There are also other major issues, and I'm not sure at this point we have enough evidence to really let us rule on this."
Kennelly said he also didn't think the commission should rush into having a public hearing during the summer when fewer town residents are engaged in what's happening in local government.
On Tuesday night, the commission voted on whether to send each of the three parts of the revised application to a public hearing and unanimously denied all three.