The Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) is considering a proposal for a zone change at 990 Naugatuck Ave., which would change the site from an industrial use to a residential one.
Jeffrey Gordon, landscape architect and site planner for Codespoti and Associates, made a request to the board at its Aug. 7 meeting to allow him to submit an application for a zone change without also including an application for a special permit and site plan review. These latter components are required by the zoning regulations, although the board can waive that requirement.
The board had a brief discussion on the proposal, but postponed any action until its Aug. 21 meeting. If the board agrees to Gordon’s request, the next step would be for him to submit an application for a zone change, which would include a coastal area management site plan, and a fiscal impact study.
The coastal area management site plan review is a state requirement, and is less detailed than a site plan review, in part because it does not require the full architectural drawings and the detailed landscaping plans of a site plan review. The fiscal impact study is Milford’s requirement to study the impact of children from the proposed development on the public schools.
The eight-acre site is currently owned by Gus Curcio of Stratford through his company Recycling Inc. Curcio has been battling Milford and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) in an attempt to establish a recycling plant on the parcel.
Gordon said there are two housing proposals. One proposal would be the last phase of development for Caswell Cove Condominiums, which is adjacent to the Recycling Inc. property. The other would be a plan for housing on the Recycling Inc. parcel.
Gordon said Caswell Cove would need to return to the board with an application and site plan due to changes from what was approved by the board in the early 1990s.
Gordon said there are “unique circumstances” behind his request due to the railroad crossing needed to access the property, a crossing that would need upgrades in the form of gates and warning lights.
Gordon said the Department of Transportation and Metro North “will not entertain application to upgrade the crossing without having an application in place.” The process to update the railroad crossing could take up to four years, said Gordon.
Gordon said the proposed Waterfront Design District zone would give the board more control over projects than the Housatonic Design District, which is the current zone classification and which allows industrial uses. He said it would be difficult to expand Caswell Cove toward the Recycling Inc. property due to the uncertainty of what might happen with that parcel.
“What’s the advantage to the City of Milford? If we go to the Waterfront Design District, every use in the Waterfront Design District is a special use that gives the commission a lot more control,” said Gordon. “All the other Waterfront Design District land in town is already developed. It’s not like you would be opening up a whole new aspect of zoning there.”
Gordon proposes constructing three apartment buildings with 210 apartments on the Recycling Inc. site, including a parking garage underneath the buildings, and a waterfront promenade to create waterfront access, which does not currently exist.
The regulations state that residential buildings are limited to no more than 10 dwelling units per acre with a maximum of 22 bedrooms per acre. In an email following the meeting, Gordon said he plans to submit an amendment to the zoning regulations to allow for a greater density in the Waterfront Design District zone, which he said would not affect other such properties because they are already developed.
Developer John Guedes, president of Primrose Companies of Shelton, said he has a contract with Curcio stating that if the board changes the zone from the current Housatonic Design District to the requested Waterfront Design District, then Curcio would sell the property to Guedes, and withdraw any pending litigation.
“This will help everybody involved. It will help Caswell Cove, not only getting rid of a nuisance that has been part of litigation forever. But it will also bring them some additional funds they need for the purpose of upgrading the Caswell facilities,” said Guedes. “It will get rid of the lawsuits that the City of Milford has had, along with the state and everybody else because all of those lawsuits will be withdrawn.”
Guedes said he has experience in redeveloping former industrial properties and pointed to his work in the Canal Street area of Shelton, which also involved contaminated property and a railroad crossing. He said working with railroad companies requires time and money.
In Shelton, he said he spent almost $400,000 through the approval process. He said the City of Shelton posted a $1 million bond to put a set of gates on the Wooster Street railroad crossing, but six years later the crossing is still closed because he “still does not have cooperation” from the privately owned Housatonic Railroad.
However, he said he believed the situation would be different with Metro North, particularly because at the crossing by 990 Naugatuck Ave., a train struck a truck from Recycling Inc. that was crossing the tracks.
Guedes said the last phase of Caswell Cove was approved for about 80 units, and he is proposing instead to construct 45 townhouses. That roughly three-acre property is already in the Waterfront Design District zone. Caswell Cove currently has 204 units.
Guedes said the Recycling Inc. property has “a million dollars in known environmental cleanups,” but said that not everything is known. He said when he purchased the former Beard concrete plant in Shelton, he spent $1 million for soil clean up, and Avalon Properties spent another $1 million to clean up issues discovered during the construction of its 250-unit apartment complex.
Guedes said the project would be a three and a half to four year project with a lot depending on cooperation from the railroad. He said the environmental cleanup could take a year to a year and a half.
Franklin Pilicy, land use attorney, was representing both Caswell Cove and developer John Guedes of Shelton. Pilicy said he represented Caswell Cove’s interests during the legal fight to block the operation of the recycling plant.
City Planner David B. Sulkis commented by saying, “This is an unusual request” to ask the board to waive the site plan and special permit requirements, but he said the board’s regulations allow such a request.
Sulkis said once the zone is changed, Curcio could develop the property under the Waterfront Design District zone, could sell it to someone else, or Guedes could develop something else besides the concept presented by Gordon.
Board member Scott Marlow made a motion to approve the request to start the process of pursuing the change of zone without submitting an application for a special permit or site plan review.
However, board member Robert Satti asked the board to wait to vote on the request, saying, “I am really surprised we have to make a motion like this with very little information. We got a map five minutes before the hearing started. I don’t think we should vote on it tonight.”
Board member John Grant agreed with Satti.
In response, Board Chairman Jim Quish said the board would postpone the vote until its next meeting. He suggested board members contact Sulkis with any questions for the developer.
“I am not sure what other information they can give you,” said Sulkis. “They are not doing a site plan. They are not doing a special permit application.”