Vote postponed again on 990 Naugatuck Avenue zone change

The Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) again postponed a vote on a proposal to re-zone the property at 990 Naugatuck Avenue and revise the zoning regulations, which, if approved, would allow for a high-density apartment complex on the site. The board will take up the matter at its Feb. 19 meeting.
Chairman Jim Quish said at the board’s Feb. 5 meeting that he postponed the vote because he wanted the entire 10-member board to vote on the proposal. There were only nine board members in attendance, including Jim Kader, who had just been appointed to the board on Feb. 4 and did not have time to review the files and watch the videos for the Dec. 4, 2018, and Jan. 15, 2019 public hearings.
Quish had postponed the vote from the Jan. 15 meeting because only six members were in attendance. Due to a protest petition filed by Devon Power, the proposal needs seven votes in order to be approved. Even if all six members voted in favor, the motion would have failed at the Jan. 15 meeting.
Devon Power, which operates a gas fired power plant adjacent to the property at 990 Naugatuck Avenue, had submitted a land survey showing that the company owns 26% of the land within 500 feet of 990 Naugatuck Avenue, thus allowing it to protest the plan.
Devon Power is opposed to the zone change and this Notice of Protest means that since the company represents owners of more than 20% of the land within 500 feet, at least seven board members must vote in favor of the zone change for it to become effective.
At the Feb. 5 meeting, City Planner David B. Sulkis said he reviewed the petition from Devon Power and said the petition is valid, and affirmed the need for at least seven votes to pass these motions. In his review, Sulkis showed Devon Power owned about 35% of the area in question.
In Feb. 3 and Feb. 5 emails, Jeffrey Gordon, landscape architect and site planner for Codespoti and Associates, which submitted the applications, questioned the validity of the petition, writing that what Devon Power submitted was “a city aerial photo with lines superimposed” and the words “not a survey” written on it.
Gordon wrote that the map he submitted was based on a land survey, which showed Devon Power owns between 19.8% and 20.2% of the land within 500 feet. Gordon contends that only a simple majority of the board needs to vote in favor of approval, which could be as few as four votes if six members are present at a meeting.
The board is considering a proposal to change the zone from the Housatonic Design District to Waterfront Design District on the eight-acre site, which would match the zone on the adjacent Caswell Cove property, but no longer align with the zone on the adjacent Devon Power property.
There is also a proposal to revise the regulations in the Waterfront Design District with regard to height, spacing, building area, and dwelling units.
The proposed regulation change would allow building heights up to four stories or 60 feet, instead of the current 35 feet. The proposal would increase the building area from a maximum of 30% to a maximum of 80% of habitable floor area, and increase the density to 26 dwelling units per acre or 42 bedrooms per acre.
Board member John Grant said the city has three industrial zones left, and said the board’s Plan of Conservation and Development said this area should be left as an industrial zone, and should not be approved for residential.
“I would like to actually see instead of residential, I would like to actually see something that comes in and provides jobs,” said Grant.
Board member Scott Marlow questioned if the applications were tied together. Marlow said, “I’m not necessarily in favor of some of the regulation changes,” saying he was not comfortable setting a precedent.
Sulkis said the board could approve the regulation changes, deny them, or modify them. He said it would ultimately be up to the developer to decide how to proceed.
“If there is something in the regulations you don’t like, you can modify it because you are the body that creates the regulations," said Sulkis.
Marlow said if the board voted for the zone change, and if the developer did not agree with the regulation change, the zone would still be changed.
Quish said the board has held many hearings where people come out and they are usually opposed to a particular project. He said in this case many people came out and were in favor. At the two public hearings, residents from Caswell Cove condominiums asked the board to approve the proposals.
“I think our waterfront property should be developed to encourage residential and recreational use,” said Quish. “I think it’s a great waste to have riverfront property and to have a factory on it. There is plenty of places for job creation that are less desirable in terms of the recreational use and the residential enjoyment of that space.”
Marlow responded by saying the board is making regulation changes based on a project “that may or may not happen.” He said he was concerned about 60-foot high buildings and said the changes would apply to anywhere in the Waterfront Design District zone.
“I just see that we are setting a precedent that we may not want,” said Marlow.
Sulkis said the proposed regulation change would allow almost 100% lot coverage between buildings and pavement. He said the applicant had not submitted an actual site plan, but the rendering showed the building and parking took up most of the site.
Plans call for Caswell Cove to build 44 units, instead of the 76 that were approved, on its remaining 5.6 acres of land, but this would not happen if the industrial use continued on the property at 990 Naugatuck Avenue.
Gordon is proposing constructing 210 units in the form of 86 one-bedroom units and 124 two-bedroom units in three, four-story buildings on the property at 990 Naugatuck Avenue.