Milford zoning board denies Shell Avenue apartment complex expansion

Shell Avenue aparment owners were deined the request to expand the apartments on Tuesday by the planning and zoning board of appeals.

Shell Avenue aparment owners were deined the request to expand the apartments on Tuesday by the planning and zoning board of appeals.

Saul Flores/Hearst Connecticut Media

MILFORD — Plans to enlarge an existing apartment building on Shell Avenue have been denied — for the time being.

The Planning and Zoning Board of Appeals, at its meeting Tuesday, denied an application from Sea Shell, LLC, but noted the developer can come back with a revised plan at a later date. The plan had proven unpopular, with area residents raising concerns about the proposed size, which they considered too big.

At first, the board mentioned postponing the vote to consider what they had heard throughout the meeting and have a final vote next month. But board member William Soda said it would be better to vote on the application to allow the applicant to come up with new plans and not hold them up for another month.

"I think they need to do some revisions here to get the neighbors on board with this," said Soda.

Sea Shell, LLC, requested a variance from the zoning board to increase the building's square footage from 7,500 to 12,500.

The existing apartment complex has nine units, and attorney Thomas Lynch, the apartment owners' representative, said the new building proposal would not increase the number of units.

"The current building is very dilapidated, and the key point is the new building will be zoning compliant," said Lynch. "We are not taking a building, renovating it, tearing it down and expanding it and asking for a variance of setbacks or lot coverage, or setbacks from the street or building coverage."

Michael Tarantino, managing agent, in a letter noted the current building at 25 Shell Ave. is a bit of an eyesore and may devalue the entire block's property values.

"We have an opportunity to give this blemish, on such a nice, bucolic street, a complete renovation," he wrote. "New ownership is proposing to completely renovate the building, square it off and add more balconies to add aesthetic value to the entire avenue. The current building has an awkward shape from a quick-fix renovation decades ago and has not been properly maintained the match the neatly manicured neighboring homes."

Board Member Sarah Ferrante said the structure doesn't need to increase in size to maintain the same number of units.

"I think there are many ways to renovate it, and I'm in favor of renovating it," she said.

Ferrante said she doesn't see why a building this size needs a variance to maintain nine units, bring it up to code, or make it more compliant.

"I don't see a hardship," she said.

Margaret Streicker of Sea Shell, LLC, said the current layout has a combination of efficiencies and one-bedrooms. There is also one two-bedroom and the current penthouse apartment has four bedrooms.

The updated plan has two three-bedroom and six two-bedroom units, and the penthouse would have three bedrooms.

"We have two points of hardship with the existing building because it is not zoning compliant and doesn't meet the standards we have in our regulations to having the structure meet the FEMA regulations and will be addressed with the new building going up," said Lynch. "The courts have held that if you eliminate or reduce a non-conforming building with a zoning variance application, that can be grounds for granting the variance."

Several community members living in the area around 25 Shell Ave. spoke against the requested variance. The main issue of those opposing the project was the size of the building.

"I do think the current property is an eyesore, and putting in a new property would be great, but just to concur with many of the other neighbors, it's just too large," said Patricia Campanelli, a resident of Shell Avenue.

Soda said there is room to downsize the building.

"I know they don't want to hear that, and they're going to have to get another architect, but we heard the neighbors, and they think it's all oversized," he said. "They have agreed to remove the parking garage, which is a plus, but going from 7,500 square feet to 12,500 square feet is a lot."