P&Z expected to vote on Seaside Avenue housing plan July 5

The Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) appears poised to approve at its July 5 meeting an 11-unit or 12-unit townhouse project at 178 Seaside Ave., which was filed under the state’s 8-30g affordable housing law.

The board concluded the public hearing at its June 20 meeting, with residents at times interrupting remarks from the applicant’s presenters, and applauding comments from neighbors opposed to the project.

The board held open the public hearing from its June 6 meeting at which 34 people spoke in opposition to the project, citing concerns about the project’s density, the negative effect it might have on their property values, and the increased traffic it would generate. The comments at the June 20 meeting mostly focused on traffic (see related story).

At the June 20 public hearing, attorney Thomas Lynch said the Police Commission had approved the traffic report for the project at its June 12 meeting. Lynch said the Traffic Division had previous concerns about the initial plans that a large garbage truck would be backing onto Seaside Avenue.

In the revised plans, Lynch said the garbage company indicated it would remove the refuse on site with a smaller truck, which would turn around on the site, and leave the property head-on. On a related topic, he said the state Department of Transportation approved the traffic plan for the project, saying Seaside Avenue is a state highway.

In response to two concerns raised by City Planner David B. Sulkis, Lynch said a fence would be installed along the rear portion of the property. He also said the lighting plan would be adjusted, so no light would spill out onto Seaside Avenue.

Sulkis asked traffic engineer Kermit Hua to review the traffic study conducted by traffic engineer David Spear on behalf of the applicant.

Speaking about his review, Hua said he visited the site on June 16. Hua said he agreed with the findings in Spear’s report, including the current and proposed levels of service along Seaside Avenue, the estimated number of trips the project would generate, sightlines that are more than adequate, and a low number of accidents.

“I don’t see any significant traffic safety concerns based on the accident data,” said Hua.

Board member Richard Lutz debated Lynch over where and how delivery trucks or moving trucks would park. Lutz suggested prohibiting vehicles beyond a certain size from entering the property.

In response, Lynch said he lives around the corner on Maple Street and witnessed a neighbor receive a furniture delivery in which the truck parked on the street in the single-family area.

“I assume they could park on Seaside Avenue,” said Lynch.

Lutz responded by saying, “No parking is allowed on Seaside Avenue. Parking is allowed on Maple Street.”

Then Lynch said, “In the single instance you cited, the driveway could take in a truck.”

Lutz shot back by saying, “Your first answer was better, rather than pulling in, if he has to back out, it could be a problem.”

Board member Thomas Nichol asked Ronald Wassmer, professional engineer for the project, what was the level of the water table in the area and where would the stormwater go when the underground storage galleys are full.

Wassmer said when he drilled test holes on the property to a depth of eight to nine feet, he did not encounter any water. He further said that the galleys could handle rainfall.

At the June 6 public hearing, John Hyatt of 49 Bassett St. said he retired from 25 years as a Milford firefighter, and said the Tower 1 truck weighs 80,000 pounds and cannot be set up on a drainage galley or catch basin.

Citing Hyatt as an “expert,” Nichol said he wanted the Milford Fire Department to review its report, saying Tower 1 is a major safety vehicle for a three-story building.

Lynch jumped to the microphone to say, “There was no expert here,” saying Hyatt “was not certified as an expert.”

Wassmer said the report from Bernard Begley, fire marshal and assistant chief, included a checklist and every item passed Begley’s review. Following the June 6 hearing, Wassmer said he spoke with Begley, commenting, “He said his report stands.”

Lynch added, “Marshal Begley — he’s an expert,” saying that Begley was hired by the city and is certified by the state.

Nichol then questioned how Tower 1 would turn around on the property.

Wassmer said this is similar to other properties in Milford and the fire department has a protocol for reviewing plans like these.

Board member Michael Dolan said that Hua had sightline concerns about the property at 214-224 Seaside Ave.

In response, Lynch said, “Our contention is that this application is far different,” noting that the other project had issues with the narrowness of the road at that location, a nearby curve, proximity to Amber Court, and sightline concerns.

Board member John Grant offered the suggestion to remove Unit D3 at the rear of the property, saying that would provide for a larger lawn area, and also provide room to move the dumpster away from the rear property line. He also said he wanted to see more trees near the front of the property.

Grant criticized the 8-30g law saying the city’s zoning laws are designed to protect single-family zones, but the 8-30g law allows multi-family housing “to stick into the middle of our residential areas.”

Echoing Grant’s comments, Lutz said that people in Milford are not opposed to affordable housing, commenting, “Trying to get them to fit into a neighborhood so they don’t impinge on the neighborhood is the trick.”

Lutz suggested having a five to eight foot wide buffer area, if there is enough room for it, “to get this to more blend in with the neighborhood.”