Grillo 342-unit apartment plan goes before Inland-Wetlands Sept. 7

A first look at plans by Grillo Services for a 342-unit apartment complex at 553 West Avenue will take place in a public hearing before the Inland-Wetlands Agency (IWA) on Wednesday, Sept. 7,  at 7:30 p.m. in the Board of Education meeting room in the Parsons Government Center.

Grillo is applying for a permit to construct two buildings with 342 total units and two parking garages with 512 total spaces with associated access drives and grading with work in and within 150 feet of the Beaver Brook watershed.

The IWA was scheduled to have a site walk on Aug. 24 at 3 p.m., but according to MaryRose Palumbo, inland wetland officer, the agency did not have a quorum, due to last-minute schedule conflicts of various agency members, so the site walk was canceled.

Palumbo said the IWA will attempt to reschedule the site walk prior to the public hearing. Even if that is not possible the hearing will still take place. She commented that IWA members are familiar with the property based on a past site walk for a previous project.

The company has a contract to purchase the 57.33-acre property from Kingdom Life Christian Church, pending approval of the project. The parcel has a 41-acre conservation easement held by the city of Milford for walking trails. At the Dec. 15, 2015 zoning hearing, Fred Mascia, project engineer, said of the 16 acres outside the conservation easement, less than eight acres can be developed.

The IWA approved a plan at its July 20 meeting, allowing the city to rebuild the boardwalk destroyed by a brush fire in 2012.

With a list of conditions, the IWA approved three different versions of Grillo’s previous plan for leaf composting, tree and brush recycling, processing of topsoil, and sale of landscaping products on this site, including the construction of two buildings with roads. The most recent approval was May 20, 2015.

The proposal received negative public comment from seven people before the IWA at public hearings on June 26, 2013, and July 24, 2013, with most concerned about how the composting operation might negatively affect the wetlands.

At its March 1 meeting, the Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) denied the application, saying the proposed industrial use did not fit the Design Office 25 zone, which is intended for office buildings. Board members were concerned about the proposed processing of landscaping materials in the site, which is located near a residential area and John F. Kennedy School.

The Jan. 5, 2016 P&Z public hearing drew positive comments from 13 residents, saying the P&Z should support a local business that works with natural products. However, 14 people said they were concerned with truck traffic passing through a residential neighborhood in close proximity to JFK School, and also about the noise that would be generated by the processing machines.

The apartment plan is being submitted under the state’s affordable housing law, 8-30g, which requires setting aside 30% of the units for rent at rates below market rates to people earning 80% and 60% or less of the area’s median income. The law does not affect the wetlands review process, but does override local zoning regulations.

In a similar case, the P&Z denied an application at its April 7, 2015 meeting, for a 247-unit apartment building at 460 Bic Drive, which is a 7.69-acre parcel in an Office District (OD).

The Superior Court’s Land Use Litigation Docket overturned that decision on April 8, 2016, thus approving the project. The state Appellate Court on July 20, 2016, rejected a request from two neighboring businesses to appeal the lower court decision, allowing that decision to stand.

Richard Freeman, president of Garden Homes Management, did not respond to an email asking for a potential starting date for construction. As of Aug. 24, the company had not applied for a building permit from the city’s Building Department.