Apartment portion of Boston Post Road project draws debate

A proposed 168-unit apartment complex planned for Plains Road near the Boston Post Road is the only really debatable part of a larger project also involving a hotel and a shopping center.

As part of the application, Metro 150 LLC is requesting a special permit and site plan approval to construct a retail shopping center at 150 and 184 Boston Post Road and 92 Plains Road, a hotel at 100 and 110 Plains Road and 150 Boston Post Road, and multi-family residential development at 92 and 100 Plains Road, and 150 Boston Post Road.

The hotel and shopping center are allowed by special permit with a site plan approval in the Corridor Design Development District 1 (CDD-1), the zone in which these properties are located. However, the apartment complex would require three changes to the zoning regulations, plus a special permit and site plan approval.

The Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) reviewed all three projects, and heard public input at a May 16 public hearing. The board is expected to discuss and possibly vote on the plans at its June 6 meeting. The board kept open the public hearing, in case its members have further questions about the projects.

Attorney John Knuff said the 168 apartments would be located in nine buildings, plus there would be a clubhouse. There would be 12 efficiency units, 104 one-bedroom units, and 52 two-bedroom units.

The application requests removing the requirement that multi-family residential buildings are only permitted in the CDD-1 zone “when at least 30% of the units are defined as affordable housing in accordance with Section 8-30g of the Connecticut General Statutes.”

Knuff said the 8-30g regulation is unnecessary because these projects can be built in any zone, except industrial zones.

“If you were to impose an affordable component, we would need far more units to make this financially viable,” said Knuff.

A second proposed change would reduce the permitted minimum square footage of one-bedroom units in multi-family residential buildings in the CDD-1 zone to 700 square feet.

Current regulations allow a minimum square footage of 575 square feet for one-bedroom units when they are part of mixed-use buildings, but require one-bedroom apartments to be a minimum of 800 square feet in multi-family residential buildings.

“This is consistent with what the marketplace demands,” said Knuff, noting that one-bedroom units in mixed-use buildings in the CDD-2 and the Milford Center Design District (MCDD) need only 575 sq. ft., and need only be 400 sq. ft. in the RMF-16 zone. The 700 sq. ft. size would match the minimum square footage permitted in the RMF-16 zone.

A third proposed change would set the following minimum off-street parking requirements for multi-family dwellings in the CDD-1 zone to 1 to 1.5 per efficiency bedroom unit, to 1.5  to 2 per one bedroom unit, and 2 to 2.5 per unit for two-bedroom units.

Current parking regulations require a minimum of two parking spaces for efficiency, one- and two-bedroom units.

Knuff said the existing parking requirements “are far in excess” of what the applicant thinks is necessary, and what is required in other towns. He said extra parking results in excess impervious surfaces.

Raymond Paier, project engineer from Westcott and Mapes, said the 6.73-acre property has an entrance drive to Plains Road and borders the proposed hotel property to the west and the retail stores to the east.

Paier said stormwater would be handled through an underground retention system with one small open water basin to collect run-off from the roofs.

Architect John Wicko said the property would be enclosed with a six-foot high fence with a picket fence by the Plains Road entrance. Wicko said three buildings would have a total of 70 parking spaces underneath them to create more green space. These buildings will have two floors of apartments above them. Total parking spaces is 299, including 11 for the clubhouse.

Other buildings will have three stories of apartments. The two-bedroom units would be located near the proposed hotel property in townhouse-style two and a half story buildings.

Wicko said the property would have 46,700 sq. ft. of open space, which he said is more than required. He said there is plenty of landscaping planned to “create an environment that is pleasing and pleasant.”

David Sullivan, a traffic engineer from Milone and MacBroom, said the apartment driveway would be located 125 feet away from the proposed hotel driveway. As with the hotel driveway there would not be a traffic signal, and Plains Road is wide enough to allow one vehicle to turn while another passes to the right.

Sullivan said the apartments would generate 86 vehicle trips during the peak morning hour, 104 trips during the peak afternoon hour, and 88 trips during the midday on Saturday. As with the other projects, Sullivan said he recommended a timing change to area traffic lights to improve traffic flow.

Robert Smith Jr., executive director of Metro Star Properties, said he has been a developer for 33 years, and has constructed more than 50 buildings in Milford.

“I do try to build a high quality product,” said Smith. “I feel 8-30g has reduced the level of product quality. My developer friends say ‘You are crazy. You can do 300 units.’”

Smith said the median income of tenants in his other apartments is $100,000, as compared to the median income of $80,000 for Milford as a whole. He said his tenants are young professionals, who want a high quality product with amenities. He said the apartments are a $36 million project.

Board member John Grant said he saw no problems with reducing the required parking ratio. However, Grant said he wanted to see the 8-30g component retained.

“Single family zones have been bombarded with 8-30g projects. We have an opportunity here to put 8-30g units in that do not affect single-family areas,” said Grant.

Board member Richard Lutz questioned how many children would live at the project, saying he saw children at a similar project in Orange, and questioned where the school bus would pick them up, and asked if there would be a playground for them.

Smith said at his 460 apartments, there are only 11 children, and he said one and two-bedroom units draw a low amount of children. He said he could add a playground to the project.

Board member Thomas Nichol spoke in favor of the project, saying, people have to expect a city like Milford on the Long Island Sound with easy road access to grow. Nichol said he would vote in favor of the project.

“Milford is no longer a town, it is a city, and it will continue to grow,” said Nichol.

Nichol and board member Rick Varrone said they are not in favor of 8-30g on this site. Varrone said Milford’s three state representative are “trying to lift the burden” of the law, while Nichol said when the 8-30g projects on Wheelers Farms Road, Bic Drive, and the proposed project on West Avenue are built, Milford would qualify for a four-year moratorium from the 8-30g law.

James Beard of 762 Wheelers Farms Road, who owns the property under the name of Jordan Realty LLC, and plans to sell the land to Metro 150 LLC if the project is approved, said he has seen the transition of Milford from farms to houses. He praised Smith for his efforts to put residential units in downtown Milford.

“My family has been doing business with Bob Smith and his family for 50 years. His projects are tasteful, successful and impressive,” said Beard.

Four people spoke against the project. Susan Glennon of 99 Carlson Drive, Board of Education chair, said two- and three-bedroom units bring in children. Glennon said she was concerned about the number of units, saying the west end of Milford has less declining enrollment than the east side.

Glennon asked the board to deny the request to change the 8-30g requirement, saying, “Residents of Milford have had 8-30g units shoved down their throats.”

Susan Falcigno of 105 Benjamin Heights Drive, said, “I can’t believe I’m agreeing to 8-30g,” but said she would rather see such a project on this property to help Milford meet the percentage it needs to be exempt from the law.

Ann Maher of 50 Propect St. said that if these apartments are built without the 8-30g component, it means the city would need that many more 8-30g apartments in other neighborhoods to reach the desired percentage.

In response to the questions of 8-30g, Knuff said that as rents decrease, the number of school children increases. He said young people are needed to revitalize a community.

Smith said in an 8-30g project, he cannot build the quality he would like to build, such as using high end appliances, granite countertops, and other finishing touches.