City agrees to modified affordable plan on Pond Point Avenue

The city and developer Thomas Colucci have agreed to a court-stipulated judgment for modified plans for a housing development with an affordable component at 86 Pond Point Avenue.

Matthew Woods, the city’s trial counsel, and Danielle M. Bercury, the attorney for Colberg LLC, the legal name under which Colucci proposed the project, agreed to the settlement in a May 17 hearing before Justice Marshall K. Berger, presiding judge of the Superior Court’s Land Use Litigation Docket at the courthouse in Hartford.

The Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) had agreed to the settlement at its May 3 meeting, with members indicating they believed this was the best course of action before them.

The plan was submitted under the state’s affordable housing law, 8-30g, which gives local zoning boards little power to regulate projects that have deed-restricted affordable housing.

Under the agreement, the board agrees to issue a zoning permit allowing Colucci to construct a 12-lot subdivision, consisting of 10 single-family homes, and two duplexes. According to Jeff Gordon of Codespoti Associates, two of the four duplex units would be designated as “housing opportunity units,” for a total of two affordable units.

The homes would be arranged in a conventional subdivision on both sides of a new street with a cul-de-sac on the 2.7-acre property. The original plan called for clusters of apartment buildings near the property borders.

The project road will be a 26-foot wide cul-de-sac that will be a city street, and the city will maintain the retention pond in the project. Colucci agrees to construct sidewalks on Pond Point Avenue, but not on the cul-de-sac, and will also install concrete curbs and driveway aprons in the new road.

The board agrees to withdraw the pending appeal before the Appellate Court. Both sides will bear their own costs.

The board denied the original project for constructing 22 condominium units, in addition to keeping the existing house, on Dec. 19, 2013, citing concerns about increased traffic on Pond Point Avenue, and the loss of open space that provided a wildlife buffer.

Colucci appealed that denial and Berger upheld the appeal in a ruling on June 29, 2015. Berger wrote that the P&Z’s reasons for denial on Dec. 19, 2013 did not prove the project would create a risk to public health and safety and outweigh the need for affordable housing.

Project opponents pressured the board at its Oct. 20, 2015 meeting into agreeing to reject the proposed settlement for a reduction from 23 condominium units to 16 houses, two of which would have been duplexes.

The board’s Oct. 20, 2015 vote prompted Woods to file for a petition for certification to the state Appellate Court. The petition asked the court for permission to appeal Berger’s decision. The court granted that petition on Dec. 2, 2015.

At the May 3 meeting, Woods told the board that he had two pre-argument conferences with a “neutral” judge to work out a proposed settlement.

Woods said the issue before the Appellate Court is whether the trial court reached an erroneous conclusion when Berger overturned the board’s decision. The police and fire departments and Colucci’s traffic engineer said there were no safety issues, said Woods.

“Does the board have the authority to reject the testimony of the fire department, the police department, and the traffic expert?” asked Woods. “The traffic issue is the only issue for the Appellate Court.”
About 20 neighbors attended the May 3 meeting, with 10 of them again protesting the plan, saying it would increase traffic along Pond Point Avenue, which they said is already too busy. They also expressed concern that the project would worsen stormwater problems in the area.