Two 1800s houses on Hill Street marked for demolition
Two houses from the 1800s are slated to be demolished to make room for a 12-unit condominium project at 67 Hill Street, following unanimous Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) approval at its June 21 meeting.
However, if City Historian Arthur Stowe concludes the property is historically or architecturally significant, he can use the city’s demolition delay ordinance, which would force a 120-day delay on the demolition. Stowe has 30 days to file that application from the time a developer files an “intent to demolish” application with the building department. The 120-day period provides time to seek alternatives to demolition.
According to the Milford assessor, the 1.43-acre property has two houses, a 2,100 square foot home built in 1868, and an 1,800 square foot home built in 1890. Hill Sixty Seven LLC purchased the property for $700,000 on March 5, 2015. The LLC lists Sherry Shepro of the law firm of Shepro & Hawkins LLC, 2103, Main Street, Stratford, as its member.
Attorney Thomas B. Lynch said the condominium project conforms to the Multiple Family Residential Districts (RMF-16) in which it would be located. Lynch said this is not an 8-30g affordable housing application, but rather a standard application.
As part of the proposal, Lynch requested two changes to the zoning regulations, which the board approved. The changes apply to Article III, Section 22.214.171.124(1) and Sec. 126.96.36.199(4), which detail the design (paragraph 1) and the spacing (paragraph 4) of buildings in RMF-9 and RMF-16 districts.
The previous regulations required a minimum of three units per building in an RMF zone, and this change would allow for individual detached units, which is the plan for the Hill Street project.
The other regulation change affects building spacing; instead of calculating a formula based on the building height, the new regulation would specify a minimum of 15 feet between buildings. According to Lynch, the formula would require 17.5 feet between each unit for this project.
Lynch said the 12 units would be located in a village circle design with one garage and two parking spaces in front. The units would have two-bedrooms with a full basement for storage, along with additional storage space in the garage. There would also be nine visitor parking spaces, including one required handicap-accessible space.
Commenting on the two houses, which he described as “old and dilapidated,” Lynch said if the city historian files for a review of the properties, that review could trigger a wait while the structures are evaluated. He said the review process is a city ordinance that is not part of the P&Z review process.
Lynch said the houses “have no real architectural significance.” He said they are not located in a historic district, nor are they listed on a state or federal register.
Lynch said the project includes the widening of Hill Street, including a section in front of Fawn Hollow Condominiums, plus rehabilitating sidewalks connecting to the condominium driveway.
Project engineer Ronald Wassmer said “a large portion of mature trees” would be retained around the property perimeter. The project will include a privacy fence and an evergreen buffer along the rear border.
According to Wassmer, each unit would have its own space in the front and rear, including a patio and porch, and a 25 foot by 25 foot rear yard.
“It exceeds the requirements for open space per unit,” said Wassmer.
Wassmer said he “tried to work with the houses” in designing the project, but said that one sits in the middle of the lot and that “created a very awkward site plan to develop the rest of the property.”
Architect Raymond Oliver said the buildings will be about 1,700 square feet with a living area on the first floor with half-bath, and two bedrooms with two baths on the second floor. Oliver said the buildings would have four different designs with varied roof and siding color, and different architectural elements, such as façades, entryways and rooflines.
The site plan review for this project was not a public hearing, but because Lynch presented the site plan along with the regulation change, the board accepted comments on both.
Michele Kramer, president of the Milford Preservation Trust, said the trust planned to meet to discuss what they saw as flaws in the demolition process. She said they have twice met with the Board of Aldermen on this issue.
Kramer said the houses at 67 Hill Street had the word “demo” painted on them in orange paint five weeks before an application was ever filed. She said the problem with the paint is that “many residents reasonably conclude demolition is imminent and inevitable,” but the city historian can issue a demolition delay.
Richard Platt, retired city historian, complained that the legal notice only included the proposed regulation change, but did not say the change was intended for a project at 67 Hill Street.
“People in that neighborhood would not know it applied” to this project,” said Platt. He, too, complained about the orange paint five weeks in advance of the application.
Platt agreed with Lynch that the houses are not in a historic district or listed on an inventory of historic houses, although he said one house “should have been.”
He said the main house was constructed in the style of 1860’s vernacular with Greek revival elements. Platt said during the Victorian era, people considered those designs too plain, so they added a veranda and a bay window.
Responding to Lynch’s description of the houses as “old and dilapidated,” Platt said, “I have heard that many times” in reference to older homes. Platt said a qualified restoration contractor or a qualified architectural historian should assess the houses.
Kramer, Platt, and another resident asked why Lynch did not apply for a variance before the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), instead of the zone change.
Lynch said the ZBA has a different standard of review in which the applicant has to prove that the land creates a hardship to using the property in conformance with the zoning regulations.
“I couldn’t stand before them [ZBA] and make that application because there is no legal hardship,” said Lynch.