High-end apartment complex next to Parsons get zoning OK

The Milford Planning and Zoning Board on Tuesday night approved a petition of Metro Star Capital for a zone change to build a mixed use building with 48 residential units and office space on West Main Street, next to the Parsons Complex parking lot.

Neighbors had attended a previous board hearing to oppose the plan for 121, 123 and 131 West Main Street, but board members voted in favor of it, saying it is in line with the city's Plan of Conservation and Development.

The board members also said the proposal could be denser if the developer was denied this application and then returned with a proposal under the state's affordable housing law.

Robert Smith Jr., managing member of Metro Star Capital, was seeking a zone boundary change to extend the adjacent Milford Center Design Development zoning to his property, which had been zoned for residential/office. The change would allow the developer to build more residential units into the project than the existing zoning would allow. The existing zone capped the amount of residential units at 50% of the project, whereas the plan submitted is primarily residential, with only 4% commercial.

Two nearby residents offered comments in favor of the plan, but the majority of people who spoke at earlier hearings said it was too big for the area, that it would increase traffic and that it was out of character with the historic neighborhood.

James Rude of 141 West Main Street said his house was built in 1785. A nearby factory was built in 1850, and most of the homes along West Main Street were built in the late 1800s or early 1900s, he added.

Bertha Gallant of 135 West Main Street said traffic will increase and that the new building may dwarf neighboring homes.

Alex Brack lives on Housatonic Avenue, which is a main filter street to the development. He works at home and sees the traffic on the streets. This project would cause more of a cluster in that area, he said.

Other residents who spoke had similar concerns.

In approving the project, board members said they took neighborhood comments into account. But several board members said they thought the plan was in line with the city's Plan of Conservation and Development, which recommends higher density projects near the downtown area. They also said they worried that if this project wasn't approved, the developer might come back and present one under the state's affordable housing statute, and that could be an even bigger development.

“It's a quality project and I think it's the best of what could go there,” said Board member Jeanne Cervin (D).

The only board member to vote against the plan was Jim Quish (D). He was adamant that there needed to be some criteria for approving a zone change request. He also argued that it didn't make sense to him that a building 96% residential and 4% commercial represented a mixed use.

The planned building will include four studio apartments, 44 one-bedroom apartments and 1,620-square-feet of office space. The developers said the apartments will be “high end.”

An existing single family home and office building currently on the site will be demolished.

The project was previously submitted with a different configuration, which included two buildings with more exposed parking, according to meeting minutes. In response to a request by the Tree Commission to save a very large Linden tree in the front of the property, the project was redesigned.

Architect Ray Oliver said the Linden tree is approximately 48 inches in diameter. He added that it is a landmark tree and it was thought important to save it.

There will be 49 parking spaces underneath the building and there will be an additional 28 parking spaces at grade. A large wooded area in the rear of the property will remain as is.

Developers said the building will be brick with a slate roof and limestone detailing, designed to match the character of the Parsons building.