Some residents still concerned about Toyota's plan for increased parking

Although Colonial Toyota hosted two neighborhood meetings to address concerns regarding its proposed vehicle storage parking lot at 449 Boston Post Road, 13 residents still spoke in opposition to the plan, which requests a zone change from residential to commercial.

The Planning and Zoning Board conducted a public hearing on the application at its Aug. 19 meeting, which was attended by 25 neighbors.

The board will discuss the proposal at its Sept. 2 meeting at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall, and may vote on the application at that time. Since the public hearing closed on Aug. 19, residents may not comment further at the Sept. 2 meeting.

Colonial Toyota submitted an application to allow the business to store a portion of its vehicle inventory on the site at 449 Boston Post Road, which formerly housed the now demolished Kimberly Diner. Colonial is also seeking permission to use a vacant commercial building at 435 Boston Post Road as a photo shop to take pictures of vehicles for internet sales.

The parking facility is permitted in the Corridor Design De-velopment District 1 bordering Route 1, but is not permitted in the Residential 12.5 district along Ford and Gunn streets behind the parcel.

Under the business name Gold Coast Realty II, Colonial has applied for a zone change from R-12.5 to Zone CDD-1 for the properties on Ford and Gunn streets to match the zoning of the property along the Boston Post Road. Colonial also needs a special permit and site plan approval from the board for the entire project.

Brian Stone, attorney for Gold Coast Realty II, told the board at the Aug. 19 public hearing that the zone change affects less than three quarters of an acre of the 1.8-parcel, which is across the street from the showroom at 470 Boston Post Road.

Stone said the Milford Health Department served a violation order for the now demolished houses at 11 and 17 Ford Street, saying Colonial needed to paint the houses and take other measures to improve the properties. Stone said the properties had structurally deficient foundations, collapsing walls and missing siding.

Stone said Colonial hosted meetings on July 22 and Aug. 14 to talk with neighbors about their concerns. One concern was that the first proposal called for changing the zoning all the way down Ford Street beyond the Colonial parcel. Another concern was the proposed buffer area between the neighborhood and the site. A related concern was whether that buffer zone would be maintained.

In response, Stone said Colonial submitted changes that limited the zone change to its property, created a 20-foot wide buffer zone along the residential area with a fence and landscaping, allowed no driveways to the residential area, and would deed-restrict the buffer zone so it could never be developed.

Stone said the neighbors further indicated they would like the zone line from commercial to residential to be at the property edge, not the center of Ford Street, as proposed by Colonial. Stone said Colonial could support such a proposal provided it could maintain the same size buffer zone.

“We are frankly amendable to anything that allows us to proceed with our project,” said Stone.

Timothy Onderko, design engineer for Colonial, said there would be a single entry point from the Boston Post Road, with all other existing ones closed up. Onderko said the driveway to Gunn Street would be aligned with the Colonial training center across the street.

Onderko said the plan calls for 167 parking spaces in the open area and 13 additional spaces behind the existing commercial building. That building would be painted to match the appearance of the other Colonial Toyota buildings.

With regard to the neighbor's concerns, Onderko said Colonial plans to install a 6-foot high vinyl fence with board on board construction to provide a visual barrier. The buffer area will include a 3-foot high berm on which 7-feet high evergreen trees will be planted. The plan calls for 37 deciduous trees and 32 evergreen trees around the parking lot, totaling 13% lot coverage.

The lot will use pervious pavement on 30 to 40% of its area, and an underground drainage system to reduce water run-off as compared to the current property. Onderko said there would be a 50% reduction from a so-called two-year storm, and a 20% reduction in run-off from a larger storm.

Onderko said the plans call for LED light fixtures, which would be directed into the parking lot “with no spillover into the residential zone.”

Robert E. Crabtree Jr., president of Colonial Motors and manager of Gold Coast Realty, told the board, “Everything we have done at Colonial over the years is to develop our property to the highest standard.” Crabtree said Colonial had been storing its inventory at two offsite locations. At one there has been constant vandalism. At the other, Colonial lost 75 cars in Tropical Storm Irene.

“That's what motivated me to buy this property,” said Crabtree.

Residents' Concerns

Residents are concerned by the encroachment of the commercial zone into the residential neighborhood. Harold Ryder of 76 Gunn Street presented a petition to the board opposing the zone change.

“We feel this is very serious. We are very concerned,” said Ryder.

Prashant Chandra of 32 Ford Street said since he moved there in 1991, he has noticed “a considerable increase in traffic,” including car carriers and people conducting test drives of vehicles.

“These are residential streets, not commercial streets,” said Chandra, who said he has no objection to the residential buffer zone.

Ed Taylor of 46 Ford Street said he has lived there since 1978. He complimented Colonial for the meetings to discuss their concerns. Taylor said he is opposed to moving the zone line to the middle of Ford Street.

“There is a possibility someone could buy the entire property and put in a commercial property,” said Taylor.

Keith Obert of 42 Peck Street expressed his opposition, saying, the plan “dramatically affects the residential nature of the neighborhood.” Obert said the city's Plan of Conservation and Development notes that there is limited land left in Milford for single-family homes, and he said this plan would further reduce that available land.

Obert said the city would be responsible for enforcing use of the buffer zone. He said Colonial is currently using the land to park cars, even though it has not received a special permit from the city.

“If Milford can't enforce this, how will it enforce it in the future?” asked Obert.

Jason Purdy of 89 Gunn Street said he is opposed to a zone change in the middle of the street, but said he is amenable to the zone change to the curb line.

City Planner David B. Sulkis said zone changes in the middle of streets is the standard and normally the city rezones entire blocks.

“It's a bad plan to have split zone lots,” said Sulkis. “I would have an issue with the convention of having the zone line on the curb line. The protection the applicant is agreeing to is above and beyond the regulations.”

Sulkis said the buffer zone would be “in perpetuity” and the city could enforce any violations of that buffer zone. “Residents should be comfortable getting restrictions beyond what we normally do,” said Sulkis.