P&Z discusses Wheelers Farms Road housing appeal in executive session

Scarcely more than two months have passed since the Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) rejected a proposed 180-unit apartment complex with an affordable component on Wheelers Farms Road, and it was already back on its agenda.

On Aug. 14, Milford Developers LLC of Chatham, N.J. appealed the P&Z’s Aug. 4 denial for its project, which was filed under the state’s affordable housing law, 8-30g. The law overrides local zoning regulations, and places the burden of proof on the city as to why the project was denied.

The board met for an hour in executive session with Matthew Woods, the city’s trial attorney, and City Planner David B. Sulkis to discuss pending litigation for the plan. The board ended the executive session and resumed its regular meeting, indicating it did not take final action on whatever was discussed. On past projects when the board has conducted such meetings, it has been to discuss a possible settlement, which has later been voted upon in the regular meeting.

Timothy Hollister, attorney for Milford Developers, and Woods met with a Superior Court judge on Nov. 9, regarding the appeal. On Friday, Nov. 13, both Hollister and Woods declined to comment on the Nov. 9 proceedings.

To successfully deny a project, a board has to prove that threats to public health and safety from the project outweigh the need for affordable housing.

The project has been bitterly opposed by residents of Wheelers Farms and East Rutland roads, who attended the many public hearings for the project, and raised concerns about increased traffic, water run-off, and potential contaminants based on past use of the property as an auto salvage facility.

Although it was on the agenda, the board took no action on the public hearing for a proposed 8-30 affordable housing project at 1613 New Haven Avenue. Sulkis announced that a traffic engineer has been selected to perform a traffic study at the applicant’s expense. Sulkis said the public hearing might resume at the board’s Dec. 15 meeting if the traffic engineer’s report and study are completed by then.

Board Vice Chairman Edward Mead reported on the Nov. 9 meeting of the Police Commission to which he is the P&Z liaison. Mead said the commission unanimously accepted the Traffic Division’s recommendation to reject a proposed 8-30g development at 214-224 Seaside Avenue, due to traffic concerns.

According to the assessor’s records, 214 Seaside Avenue is a 0.47-acre parcel, and 224 Seaside Avenue, is a 0.72-acre parcel, both of which have single-family homes on them. They are located near the intersection with Meadowside Road.

Projects follow a process of going for review and approval through various city departments and review before they appear on the P&Z agenda.