Grillo proposes 342 apartments on West Avenue

Grillo Services, which was turned down by the Planning and Zoning Board earlier this year for plans to expand its landscaping operation onto West Avenue, has filed a new application with the city’s Inland Wetland Agency for 553 West Avenue. The new plan calls for building 342 rental apartments, and the application will be filed under the state’s affordable housing law.

Grillo Services President Michael Grillo said this week that he is very excited about the project and said that even though it will be filed under the affordable housing law, the plan calls for upscale housing. “This isn’t Section 8 housing,” he said, adding that with the law, the people qualifying for those units designated as “affordable” will earn about $60,000 a year, people he described as the average working person.

The apartments would be housed in two four-story buildings. There are two parking garages proposed for 512 cars. The plan includes a bridge crossing over Beaver Brook, as well as walking paths and wetland mitigation. About 27 acres of the 57-acre site is wetlands, according to Inland Wetland Officer Maryrose Palumbo.

The Inland Wetland Agency received the plans July 20, and therefore has until Sept. 23 to render a decision or schedule a public hearing. Palumbo said there is a good chance there will be a public hearing on the project because there was a public hearing when Grillo filed its earlier application.

The proposal calls for developing eight of the 57-acre parcel, Grillo said. The property includes the Beaverbrook trail system, which the city has an easement to and which residents will continue to have access to.

“It’s a great project,” Grillo said. “I am very excited about it. My brother and I both enjoy designing and building. You take an idea and take it to paper, and to see it built will be even more exciting.”

The plan calls for 19 three-bedroom units; 198 two-bedroom and 125 one-bedroom units. Market value units will rent in the range of $1,350 per month for a one-bedroom, more depending on the size; to about $2,800 a month for a three-bedroom unit.

The development would include a swimming pool, children’s play area and extensive landscaping. Grillo said Tim Gooding of Gooding Architect of Stamford is the project architect, and he said it will be similar to the Waypointe project in Norwalk that Gooding is involved with.

The units will be colonial in style, Grillo said.

If the Inland Wetland Agency approves the plan, it will move to the Planning and Zoning Department.
The earlier application
The Planning and Zoning Board voted 7-2 at its March 1 meeting to deny Grillo’s application for a special exception and site plan review to construct a facility for leaf composting, tree and brush recycling, and more at the site. Many residents spoke against the proposal, citing concerns about odors and noise.

In making the motion to deny, board member John Grant said the proposed industrial use by Grillo did not fit the zone, which is designed for office buildings.

Grillo’s new plan will be filed under the state’s 8-30g affordable housing law, which supersedes local zoning regulations. If the P&Z were to reject the new plans, for the court to sustain the denial the P&Z would have to prove the project poses a hazard to public health, safety or welfare, a threat that outweighs the need for affordable housing.

The city, presented with a number of projects in recent years under the affordable housing law, has denied some of them. When denied, those cases have moved to a land litigation docket, where a judge has overturned the city’s decision.

Grillo has a contract to purchase the West Avenue property from Kingdom Life Christian Church, pending P&Z approval of an application.

As for expanding the current Grillo composting facility, Michael Grillo said the facility will remain where it is on Oronoque Road and is not looking right now at another location for expansion.