Residents pack City Hall to oppose Pond Point Avenue housing project

Two proposed affordable housing developments brought people to City Hall in droves Tuesday night to oppose the plans.

About 400 people filled the upper and lower levels of Milford City Hall, a crowd that even topped this year’s swearing-in of new Fire Chief Doug Edo.

While most of the people showed up to protest a 22-unit housing proposal on Pond Point Avenue, some were there to speak against a smaller, 9-unit plan for West Main Street.

The Pond Point Avenue proposal calls for building 22 triplex and duplex, condominium-style units on 2.7 acres of undeveloped woodland at 86 Pond Point Avenue. Seven of the units would be sold to people who earn 60% or 80% of the median income, which means they would go to families earning $38,000 to $58,000 a year. The units will sell for $111,000 to $258,000. An existing house already at the site would remain, under the current plan.

Both building proposals have been filed under the 8-30g Affordable Housing Act, which gives the developer the upper hand in gaining approval for the project.

Attorney Danielle Bercury of the firm Harlow, Adams and Friedman, representing the Pond Point Avenue property owner Colberg LLC, said she understands that many residents are concerned about losing the woods.

“But this is not open space,” she said. “This is privately owned property.”

The attorney added that the owner would be willing to sell the land to the city or a land trust, though she didn’t mention a price.  Pond Point Avenue resident John Healey later said he wants the mayor to consider buying the land.

Area residents had much to say about the Pond Point Avenue proposal. Ken Brannin of Shadyside Lane disagreed with Jeffrey Gordon, a landscape architect from Codespoti Associates, who described a retention pond and other water mitigation measures that he said will ease existing water problems in the area. Brannin doesn’t believe that.

“I’ve heard that before,” Brannin said

Brannin said Codespoti made the same statement about a project at 68 Pond Point Avenue, and that project sent 15 inches of water into Brannin’s back yard and against the back of his house.

“This was a horrible, horrible problem,” Brannin said. “There is water here. There is a problem.”

Some homes on nearby Lindy Street get so much water in their basements that the city once installed sump pumps in their basements, said Joseph DellaMonica, a Planning and Zoning board member. He too wondered how putting a housing development on a wooded site could possibly ease the water situation.

Attorney John H. Steele spoke on behalf of one resident, and presented a petition against the project signed by 700 residents. State Sen. Gayle Slossberg spoke on behalf of the residents too. She argued that the state affordable housing law was not designed to see affordable housing put in inappropriate places. She also suggested the board consult with the city attorney to see if the applicant needs to apply for a special permit to put the development in a residential neighborhood.

Slossberg focused primarily on the fact that the site is near the Indian River watershed and that the state’s coastal management plan requires municipalities to protect against polluting these watersheds.

Resident Richard Brantley spoke out for the wildlife, arguing that there are many native trees on the site, and eastern box turtles and hairy woodpeckers. His neighbor said she has seen New England cottontails.

Residents who didn’t get a chance to speak Tuesday will have another chance Dec. 3 when the public hearing continues at Milford City Hall.

The public hearing for the West Main Street project did conclude Tuesday as there weren’t quite as many people there to speak about it. A vote could come as early as Dec. 3, but city officials said that isn’t likely.

That West Main Street plans calls for constructing nine residential units at 229 West Main Street, owned by Molly Rentals.

Attorney Thomas Lynch, speaking for the applicant, said there would be six one-bedroom and three two-bedroom units in three, three-floor townhouse buildings.

One resident spoke in favor of the plan, explaining that he works at Sikorsky and has faced furloughs and such. “Projects like these give me hope that I’ll be able to continue to live in this town,” he said.

Timothy Swaller, who lives on Lamplight Lane nearby, said the city rejected a plan to put two houses on the site not too long ago. He doesn’t understand how officials can now be considering a nine-unit plan for the same property.

“If two houses didn’t work, I don’t see how nine units and 20 parking spots will fit on that property,” Swaller said.

Others said the plan represents overdevelopment of West Main Street.