Split Milford P&Z board approves apartment plan at historic property

MILFORD - It was a split decision, but the Planning and Zoning Board approved a mixed-use commercial building at 67 Prospect St.

The board approved a plan that calls for a three-story, 36-unit building to be built behind the historic David Baldwin House. The house will have its exterior restored and its interior renovated to house office space and a fitness center for renters.

With public comment having been closed at the board’s March meeting, discussion was limited at the April 6 meeting to board members.

The size of the apartment complex was one of the main issues.

Board member James Kader said the size of the proposed apartment complex didn’t fit the neighborhood. He rhetorically asked whether the project is devastating the neighborhood, since the neighbors were the ones who were speaking out, and the board is charged with making the decision. He proposed adding trees at the site to try to minimize the effect on the area.

Chairman Jim Quish agreed the building seemed out of place and that trees would help.

“It looks massive and feels too big,” he said. That’s why he had asked for 15-foot trees, because it would reduce the visual scale of the building, he said.

“If the visual element reduces the effect of the scale, then I think that I personally feel like we got something good for the city,” Quish said.

The project in some form has been in the works since 2017, and discussion was minimal as the board members have had time to make up their minds.

Before the vote, Robert Satti urged his fellow board members to vote their conscience, saying the board needed to do right by the people the members serve, and the people that live near the property.

The final vote was 5-4 in to approve the project with Quish, Kader, Nancy Austin, Joseph Castignoli and Brian Kaligian voting in favor. Satti, John Mortimer, Carl Moore and Marc Zaharides voted against the project. Peg Kearney was absent.

The fate of the 200-year-old Baldwin House has been up in the air for the past four years. In 2017, developers proposed 44 apartments on the 0.98-acre site. That has since been reduced to 36, with 58 parking spaces, of which 32 spaces would be under the apartment building.

A 2018 lawsuit further delayed the project after the Milford Historic Preservation Commission denied a Certificate of Appropriateness to allow demolition of the historic house. The city and applicant settled the suit in 2020 with the agreement to preserve the house’s exterior. The commission approved the settlement at its Sept. 21, 2020, meeting.

As part of the settlement, the property owners agreed to a ground-penetrating radar investigation, which concluded there were no reflections consistent with graves. The property had been thought to be a burial place for some of the city’s founders.

The owners also agreed to restore a bronze plaque and stone, previously located next to the house’s driveway, at or near its former location.