Grillo's affordable housing plan presented to P&Z

A familiar scenario played out at the Aug. 15 Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) meeting in which a developer presenting an apartment complex under the state’s 8-30g affordable housing law was followed by a steady stream of residents asking the board to deny the project.

(Read the article about resident comments here)

Grillo Services LLC has filed an application for a 342-unit apartment complex at 553 West Ave. under the state’s 8-30g affordable housing regulations. The board suspended the public hearing at 11 p.m. that night, and will resume the hearing at its Sept. 5 meeting, which will take place at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall.

In making the presentation on behalf of Michael and Lawrence Grillo, who are the contract purchasers for the property owned by Kingdom Life Church, attorney Thomas Lynch described the apartments as “a luxury high-end development” that “has an affordable component.” The project is called The Preserve at Beaver Brook.

The property is located in the Design Office 25 zone (DO-25). Multi-family housing is not permitted in this zone, but the 8-30g law makes that restriction meaningless, since the law overrides local zoning regulations.

On March 1, 2016, the P&Z rejected a proposal from the Grillos to operate a composting facility at the West Avenue location, due to concerns of noise, dirt and truck traffic. Such a facility is not permitted in the DO zone.

Lynch gave the board a handout detailing traffic volumes from uses permitted in the DO zone. He said a 300,000 square foot office building would generate 3,309 vehicle trips per day; a 200,000 square foot medical office building would generate 7,226 trips per day, while this project would generate 2,197 trips daily.

“Traffic is a non-issue,” said Lynch.

Lynch said the affordable units would appeal to young professionals, such as teachers, police officers, and firefighters earning $50,000 to $60,000 per year, who want to live in Milford.

He said a one-bedroom apartment would rent to someone earning 60% of the area’s median income for $910.63 monthly, while the same apartment would rent for $1,150 to someone earning 80% of the area’s median income.

Lynch said the project has received approvals from most city departments and agencies, including the Sewer Commission, the Health Department, the city engineer, and the fire marshal.

Lynch said the fire marshal rejected the first plans, which called for an 18-foot wide emergency access road with pavers. When the Inland-Wetlands Agency (IWA) approved a revised proposal with a 28-foot wide paved road, the fire marshal approved those plans.

Project engineer Alfred J. Mascia said of the 57.3 acres on the property, 9.5 to 10 acres can be developed. Mascia said that stormwater discharge onto the site from I-95 has caused heavy erosion and resulted in much debris and litter being deposited onto the site.

Per the IWA approval, Grillo plans to clean up the site and create a useful pond, which would also be used for stormwater detention. Two detention basins would have a containment cell in which debris would be captured and would be removed during periodic clean-outs.

Mascia said two four-story apartment buildings, accompanied by a three and a half, and a four-story parking garage would be located on either side of the 24-inch underground gas pipeline.

“There will be no surface parking lots, other than a few visitor spaces,” said Mascia.

Mascia said the site driveway would be a 28-foot wide paved roadway that would enter from the West Avenue side near the sewer pump station, and exit at Schoolhouse Road.

The paved emergency access road would vary in width from 18 to 28 feet wide. That road would be paved with pervious asphalt that would be constructed over a 12-inch crushed stone base to allow for direct stormwater drainage.

Mascia said a portion of the site would require a privately owned and maintained pump station that would drain to West Avenue. There would be five to six fire hydrants along the main road and four hydrants along what we termed was the scenic road.

Mascia said the project would require a permit from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) because Beaver Brook, which crosses the site, is in the flood plain.

The main road will cross Beaver Brook and the floodplain on a 100-foot long bridge that he said would be designated for highway loading. The bridge would require a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers.

Since the project would be disturbing more than 10 acres of land, it also required a stormwater construction activity plan to be filed with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). Mascia said DEEP would also have to issue a water quality certificate. The state Office of Traffic Administration would also have to issue a permit.

Aris W. Stalis, landscape architect, said the pipeline corridor would be an open grassland space that ties into the trail system on the property. He said there would be a children’s play area, a courtyard, a pool area, and barbecue pits. Lighting would be placed on timber poles.

Architect Timothy Gooding said the parking garages would be placed between I-95 and the buildings to maximize views to the south and the marsh. He said open courtyards would increase the numbers of views. Gooding said the residential-style buildings would vary in exterior materials and color, and also roof lines.

Gooding said the units would have nine-foot ceilings, along with upscale appliances. Top floor units would have cathedral ceilings with lofts. The buildings would have sprinklers.

Traffic engineer Robert Jurasin said he conducted a full traffic impact study, including observing traffic conditions and observing traffic counts. Jurasin said he projected traffic flow to the year 2020, when the apartments are scheduled to be occupied.

Jurasin said the project would generate 172 trips during the peak morning hour, and 205 trips during the peak afternoon hour. Jursasin predicts 75% of the traffic would exit to Schoolhouse Road and 25% to West Avenue. Of those using Schoolhouse Road, he said 65% would head to I-95.

“Our analysis showed unacceptable conditions during the a.m. on Schoolhouse Road under the I-95 bridge,” said Jurasin.

To address the situation, he proposes restriping Schoolhouse Road to create left turn lanes to the I-95 on-ramps. He also proposes four-way stop signs at the I-95 ramps, and at the Schoolhouse Road driveway.

Jurasin said the average speed on both Schoolhouse Road and West Avenue is 43 miles per hour, even though the posted speed limit is 35 mph and 25 mph respectively. At this speed, the driveways need a sightline distance of 478 feet. He said both driveways meet this requirement, provided foliage is trimmed back along the roads.

In response to three issues raised by the Police Commission, Jurasin said the requested road to the rear of the buildings is part of the plans, the site distances meet requirements when the leaves are off the trees, and the stop signs and turning lanes address the additional traffic that is being added to Schoolhouse Road.

Jurasin said the Office of Traffic Administration has to approve the project, and he said the Department of Transportation is studying this interchange.

“They recognize the congestion that is there today,” said Jurasin.