Neighbors vocal in opposition to Seaside Avenue housing

Residents continued to express opposition to a proposed 12-unit townhouse project at 178 Seaside Ave., through both angry outbursts reacting to comments from the applicant’s presenters, and during the public portion of the June 20 Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) public hearing.

Prior to opening the hearing to public comment, board chairman Scott Marlow said he knew the issue was very emotional for neighbors, and asked that they direct their comments to the board, not the applicant, and “keep it as civil as possible.” He asked that people limit their comments to the topics for which the hearing was held open, the traffic study review, the additional fencing, and the lighting redesign. Several times during the meeting, he asked the audience to not interrupt the presenters.

From the audience of about 40 people, 13 people expressed opposition to the project, mostly commenting about the traffic. Almost all had spoken out at the June 6 hearing.

Stewart Pearl of 4 Seaside Ave. said the traffic issue is not just the number of trips, but the problem of getting out of driveways because “people just zoom down Seaside Avenue.”

Pearl urged the board to delay action on the application because the General Assembly had passed changes to the 8-30g law that would grant a moratorium to Milford, and said Gov. Dannel Malloy had until June 22 to make a decision to sign or veto.

In response, Marlow said, “We have to deal with what is in front of us.”

Laura Smith of 182 Seaside Ave. said that morning a Milford garbage truck broke down on Seaside Avenue and it was a hazard to drive around. Smith said Seaside Avenue sidewalks are busy with adults walking and children on bicycles, requiring her to sometimes wait to turn into her driveway.

Referring to comments from Lynch about the traffic study for 214-224 Seaside Ave., which is just down the street from 178 Seaside Ave., Smith said, “They make it sound like the seven cottages are so far away. They are only six houses away.”

Barbara Miro of 83 Underhill Road took a shot at Lynch when she said, “He mentioned he lives in a single-family house. I wonder what he would think if someone sold a three-quarter of an acre property and put this in his backyard.”

Spencer Rogers of 123 Underhill Road said, “When it rains really hard, there is a big sinkhole on Underhill Road that fills up. I question where all that water is going.”

GAMS LLC owns the 0.76-acre property in the R-12.5 zone, which permits only single-family houses. The project involved three applications for the 12, one-bedroom townhouses: one for a special permit, another for site plan approval, and a third for Coastal Area Management site plan approval.

The project was filed under the state’s 8-30g law, which supersedes local zoning regulations, allowing the construction of multi-unit housing in single-family zones. To prevail in court, the P&Z has to prove the project poses a hazard to public health, safety or welfare, a threat that outweighs the need for affordable housing. The P&Z has not convinced the court that any 8-30g project it has denied or modified failed to meet this standard.

If the board tries to deny or modify the project, its members need only look up the road for the project at 221-224 Seaside Ave. to have a sense of the outcome. At its April 5, 2016 meeting, the board denied a plan to construct eight cottages behind the two houses on that property.

When that developer returned with a modified plan to address the traffic concerns cited in the denial, the board approved a plan at its July 5, 2016 meeting with seven cottages and one house. Faced with an appeal, the board voted at its Nov. 1, 2016 meeting to approve a settlement to approve the eight units, but have only two affordable units, instead of three, and have four-bedrooms in those two affordable units.