Milford zoning board approves capital improvement plan

MILFORD — The Milford Planning and Zoning Board unanimously accepted Mayor Benjamin Blake’s Capital Improvement Plan for 2020-25 at its Nov. 17 meeting. The approval was an 8-24 referral, in which the board was acting in an advisory capacity to the Board of Aldermen on matters related to city-owned property.

The plan moves to the aldermen for final review and acceptance. The aldermen have the authority to vote for the funding necessary to pay for any items in the plan, which has a $174 million price tag.

In his Nov. 13 memo to the board, Blake wrote that the plan “does not set priorities, nor does it carry any funding commitment.” He further wrote, “Much of our costs are in improvements to public infrastructure, our schools and the continuation of our sanitary sewer system.”

Mayoral Assistant Justin Rosen represented Blake at the meeting and told the board the plan constituted a “wish list” for the city.

“Most of these are public infrastructure upgrades,” Rosen said. He further commented that the document layout “does not reflect any level of priority.”

Rosen echoed Blake’s written remarks when he said that plan approval does not commit the city to any funding obligation. He said the document “is an extremely useful tool” when the city borrows money to pay for projects.

In other business, conversion of storage space into a third floor apartment at 166 Bridgeport Ave. was the sole application approved by the board. The vote approved the site plan and finding of parking adequacy for the mixed-use building located in the Corridor Design Development District-2.

Linda Baumgarten of H&W Integrity Homes LLC presented the application on behalf of property owner 166 Bridgeport Ave. LLC, which purchased the 0.13-acre property on Feb. 13, 2018 for $480,000. The LLC lists Naeem Bengali and Naela Malick of Milford as members.

There are three first-floor retail spaces, which are occupied by Two Friends Pizza House, Déjà Vu Boutique and Simply Kitchens. The second floor has a pair of one-bedroom apartments; one is 597 sq. ft., while the other is 613 sq. ft. The proposal was for a two-bedroom 942 sq. ft. apartment on the third floor.

Baumgarten told the board that the application was a request for parking adequacy. She said there are currently seven parking spaces in the rear parking lot, while 13 are required for the existing uses, and the new apartment would raise that need to 15 spaces. She said there is room for parking in the nearby municipal parking lot, which she said is rarely used, except for a weekly farmer’s market, and also street parking on Bridgeport Avenue and Daytona Avenue.

Simply Kitchens operates weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Baumgarten said, and also on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. She said the boutique is only open during the day. The store’s website indicates it is open Tuesdays to Fridays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Finally, she commented that Two Friends operates from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on a take-out only basis.

Baumgarten said the fire marshal is requiring installation of a sprinkler system because the project is adding residential on top of commercial. She said this would be a $40,000 to $50,000 investment. The owner plans to install a dumpster enclosure. However, she said there is little room for landscaping. One of the existing spaces is used to park a trailer owned by Simply Kitchens for its road shows.

Sulkis pointed out problems with the application in his review, noting that both he and city engineer Gregory H. Pidluski recommended “site improvements be made to make the site more zoning compliant and safe for pedestrians utilizing the public sidewalk on Dayton Avenue.”

He suggested a barrier between the parking area and the sidewalk, which could be a landscaped island.

“This is parking that just sort of organically came into existence,” said Sulkis. “There were probably very few parking standards at the time this was built.”

Pidluski noted in his review that one parking space intrudes into the public right of way and the driveway apron. He said the plans should be revised so all parking maneuvering is taking place on the property, not on or across the public sidewalks. He also suggested bollards be installed by the dumpster enclosure, as it appears to be within the maneuvering area for some parking spaces.

“The applicant should consider providing a new site plan that reduces the on-site parking for the purpose of improving accessibility, pedestrian safety, and added zoning compliance for parking lot design,” Sulkis said.

In his review, Pidluski noted that the driveway apron and sidewalk along Daytona Avenue “are in fair to poor condition and should be removed and replaced with new concrete.” He also recommended that the plans include stormwater treatment and mitigation.

Board Chairman Jim Quish said he was opposed to having the owner replace the existing concrete, commenting, “To make them dig up the concrete and pour a new apron is a huge expense for absolutely no benefit to anyone.”

Quish further said he did not believe requiring a curb cut of a certain dimension would make pedestrians safer. He supported the finding of parking adequacy because parking was available on the street and in the public parking lot.

In response, Sulkis said the city engineer is in charge of the public right of way, and even if the board said the applicant did not have to make the sidewalk improvements, the city engineer has jurisdiction.

The board’s final motion was to approve the site plan and the finding of parking adequacy, but without imposing any conditions. The vote was 8-1 in favor with Vice Chairman Robert Satti voting against it.