Milford P&Z denies height increase for Kmart apartment plan

MILFORD — It is back to the drawing board for developers of the proposed apartment complex at the former Kmart location.

The Planning and Zoning Board, at its meeting Tuesday, failed to approve the developer's proposed height and density change proposal for the apartment complex. The board's tie vote on the proposal, according to City Planner David Sulkis, means the regulation change request was denied..

"The site plan and special permit would not work because it is based on the regulation change, which just failed," Sulkis said.

Attorney John Knuff, representing the developers, Casey Associated LTD Partnerships, said up until that denial, the city had approved all requests submitted in connection to this development.

"We're currently evaluating our options at the location and will make a decision about the future of the site in the coming months," Knuff said. "Before this unexpected turn of events, our intent was to dramatically improve this site with a $55 million private investment, which would have eliminated a long-standing eyesore for our neighbors and the entire city."

During Tuesday's P&Z board meeting, Knuff said they were initially proposing the height of the building be 55 feet in the regulation change before deciding to limit the proposal to 50 feet.

"This will have a substantial improvement that will not only impact the immediate property but will have an impact on the entire neighborhood and the Devon area as well," Knuff said.

The height and density change, known as Regulation 22-8, would have raised the allowable building height from 40 feet to 50 feet, changed the size of the building from 12 acres to 10 acres, and changed the maximum housing density from 17 units per acre to 19.

Several people spoke during the public hearing portion of the meeting. All were against the proposed regulation change.

"The trees behind my house are very tall, and if the building is going to be as high as those trees, that is a monstrous size building compared to the rest of the neighborhood. Even the commercial neighborhood is not that high," said Robin Lewis, who lives on Meadows End Road. "I appreciate the effort to address the concerns we raised during the last meeting, but it's still too big."

In February 2022, P&Z approved the multi-family housing project at the plaza, located at 589 Bridgeport Ave. The lot includes several buildings housing Ocean State Job Lot, Dollar Tree, Walgreens and Taco Bell, and a strip mall adjacent to Bridgeport Avenue with a Subway, a liquor store and other vacant space.

Seven months later, in September, Knuff updated the board, stating the project remained on track. Knuff said the number of units remained the same, 202, but lot allocation between the commercial portion and multi-family use had changed somewhat.

"That was a legal issue between my client as the prospective owner of the property and the commercial tenants," he said. "Therefore, we had to slide those buildings a little bit further, and as a result, we went from 202 on 12 acres to 202 units on 10 acres."

At the board's most recent meeting, Sulkis told the members that for a development of this type the minimum lot size needed is 15 acres.

"If there are any other parcels in the district that are 15 acres, again, this is a regulation change in the zone, and anybody else who meets the same criteria, would be able to take advantage of these regulations," he said. "But one of the conditions to take advantage of the regulation is you have to have a minimum of 15 acres, and I don't believe there are any other parcels that have it."

Commissioner Joseph Castignoli said he would rather wait for a better proposal.

"I don't think this is the best proposal we are going to get on this parcel," he said. "We are being presented with a take it or leave it, and I don't think that's the case."

Commissioner Etan Hirsch said the project was also an economic development issue because it's commercial and residential.

"If you want to scuttle the deal, you can go ahead and do that and vote against it," he said. "I'm not sure there is a better proposal. Why take a chance? You're going up 10 feet, and the trees sufficiently block the neighbor's view of the building. I think it's a very reasonable proposal."