Zone change for 990 Naugatuck Avenue takes step forward

Changing the zone at 990 Naugatuck Avenue from an industrial use to a residential use took the first step when the Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) voted at its Aug. 21 meeting to allow an applicant to submit a change of zone without also including a special permit and site plan review.

The board voted 6-1 in favor with board member John Grant voting against the motion.

Jeffrey Gordon, landscape architect and site planner for Codespoti and Associates, told the board he was requesting the waiver of these requirements due to the complications posed by upgrades to the railroad crossing needed to access the property.

“We are not able to bring a site plan in until we have the railroad crossing in place because that is going to be a primary access point,” said Gordon. “Without having the zone in place, we really can’t go forward with the site plan and without that we really can’t move forward with the railroad.”

Gordon has proposed changing the zone from the Housatonic Design District (HDD) to Waterfront Design District (WDD). He said the city would benefit because the board has more control over development in the WDD because all uses within that district are by special permit.

“The commission gets a lot more control. We get the certainty of not having a deleterious use next to the expanded Caswell Cove and therefore are able to go forward with the final phase of Caswell Cove.”

Gordon intends to return at a future meeting with an application for a public hearing on the zone change. The application must include a coastal area management site plan, and a fiscal impact study.

The coastal area management site plan review is a state requirement, and is less detailed than a site plan review, in part because it does not require the full architectural drawings and the detailed landscaping plans of a site plan review. The fiscal impact study is Milford requirement to study the impact of children from the proposed development on the public schools.

There are two housing proposals. One proposal would be the last phase of development for Caswell Cove Condominiums, which is adjacent to the Recycling Inc. property. The other would be a plan for housing on the Recycling Inc. parcel.

City Planner David B. Sulkis cautioned the board to carefully consider the effects of the zone change. Sulkis said the city does not have many industrials parcels remaining and this may be the last waterfront industrial parcel.

“You would be examining this and making a determination as to whether it’s a good idea to turn industrial land into residential and all that that entails,” said Sulkis.

Sulkis also cautioned that once the zone is changed, the parcel could be sold to a different developer and the proposal before them might never be built.

Gordon proposes constructing three apartment buildings with 210 apartments on the Recycling Inc. site, including a parking garage underneath the buildings, and a waterfront promenade to create waterfront access, which does not currently exist.

The regulations state that residential buildings are limited to no more than 10 dwelling units per acre with a maximum of 22 bedrooms per acre. In an email following the meeting, Gordon said he plans to submit an amendment to the zoning regulations to allow for a greater density in the WDD zone, which he said would not affect other WDD properties because they are already developed.

Developer John Guedes, president of Primrose Companies, plans to construct the last phase of Caswell Cove condominiums on its adjacent property.

At the Aug. 7 P&Z meeting, Guedes said the last phase of Caswell Cove was approved for about 80 units, and he is proposing instead to construct 45 townhouses. That roughly three-acre property is already in the WDD zone. Caswell Cove currently has 204 units. He does not plan to construct this phase if the possibility exists of a recycling plant at 990 Naugatuck Ave.

The eight-acre site is currently owned by Gus Curcio of Stratford through his company Recycling Inc. Curcio has been battling Milford and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) in an attempt to establish a recycling plant on the parcel.

Recycling Inc. currently has a lawsuit against the Milford Zoning Board of Appeals, pending in Superior Court. That case is scheduled to have a pretrial conference on Oct. 3

The ZBA upheld a decision by Zoning Enforcement Officer Stephen Harris to revoke Recycling Inc.’s Certificate of Zoning Compliance (CZC) to operate a recycling facility. Harris revoked the permit on July 14, 2015, when he learned that the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) had revoked its permit.

Recycling Inc. appealed the revocation of the DEEP permit, but lost its appeal in Superior Court, and the Appellate Court upheld the lower court decision.

Guedes said he has a contract with Curcio stating that if the board changes the zone from the current Housatonic Design District (HDD) to the requested Waterfront Design District (WDD), then Curcio would sell the property to Guedes, and withdraw any pending litigation.

Sulkis told the board he had a discussion with the city attorney who told him the question of litigation should not factor into its decision on the proposed zone change.

“There is no litigation that the city of Milford is concerned about,” said Sulkis. “Litigation should not be coming into any of your thought process to whether or not this is a good application or a bad application. You should be strictly look at this as a land use issue and not as having anything to do with litigation where the city is concerned.”

Gordon said an environmental cleanup is needed on the Recycling Inc property. He said there are storage tanks, building materials, along with unknown materials on the site. He said some contaminants are known, while others are unknown. He said there may be heavy metals and volatile organic compounds.

“People used to stick their stuff on the river. Now they want to protect the river,” said Gordon.