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Perillo: Apartment Complex Will 'Derail' Downtown Revitalization

The Planning and Zoning Commission met last night to further discuss plans for a new upscale apartment complex in Shelton.

The continuation of a public hearing for a $30-40 million apartment complex at 740 Bridgeport Ave. was held Wednesday night at City Hall, and one former Planning & Zoning Commission member was present to speak against the proposed construction plans.

The 13-acre property up for discussion is tucked behind Planet Fitness and currently owned by the Francini family. Attorney Dominick Thomas represented the developers, Talbot Partners LLC, and reported that the site has been marketed for a number of years to no fruition.

"If you wait for someone to propose an office or industrial use, I don't think your children or grandchildren will ever see it," Thomas said.

The proposed apartment complex, Valley Glen, would consist of 252 "upscale" units, 418 parking spaces, a 4,660 square-foot clubhouse, a pool, workout room, indoor theater, outdoor fireplace and grills, locker rooms and business center. The monthly rental price for the studio, one or two bedroom units would be between $1,450 and $1,950. Though architects on the project said these amenities are "unprecedented" in typical apartment structures, Shelton's representative at the Capitol in Hartford does not feel it would be a good addition to the community.

"This will have severe detrimental implications to what we're trying to do downtown," said Jason Perillo (R-113).

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He cited current building projects in the downtown area (like the Avalon Bay complex) and future ones (such as the old Spongex property), as the focus of the city's work, and said he feels the Valley Glen complex will cut into the demand for housing and take away from their anticipated success.

"If we want to see downtown revitalized, we can't support projects like this," Perillo said. "It will derail the efforts of the SEDC, zoning commission and city officials."

Thomas argued that the need for housing is already there and will continue to grow as both baby boomers and echo boomers move into a "rental generation."

Also present to speak against the construction plans was Shelton's Conservation Commission chairman, Thomas Harbinson. In a letter to the PZC, he said the Commission finds the zone change to be "inconsistent with the overall goals outlined in the City's Plan of Conservation and Development."

While there is no use for the land as open space, commissioner Elaine Matto did point out to Harbinson that there is "green value" in having people live closer to where they work, and with some 20,000 people commuting into Shelton every day for work there is a need and purpose for the apartments.

PZC has not yet voted on this zone change application.

chris bailey January 24, 2013 at 12:39 PM
While the Francini family has the right to do whatever they please with this property, I would like to see them simply plant a bunch of trees here and leave it be. The town does not have a need for another strip mall selling a bunch of junk, nor does it need a commercial space with over half the offices empty...and the last thing it needs are high priced rentals. While it is true that the current market will support high price rentals it will only be a matter of years before the economy cycles back to more home ownership, and these expensive rentals will be the first to take a hit. Lets not be so short sighted as we were a couple of years ago.
Jeff January 24, 2013 at 12:41 PM
I completely disagree with those who are against this project. If this were to eat into demand for downtown residential living than good! Downtown is a traffic disaster. Did I mention disaster? And that's at the present condition including in the middle of the day. This new Avalon Bay project as beautiful and eye pleasing as it is will make the traffic situation at times a nightmare once those properties are filled. I find continued encouragement to further expansion in downtown irrational until some plan of infrastructure improvement is proposed. I've said for years try the simple act of synchronizing the 3 main traffic lights on Howe. See what happens. I've heard proposals from who I might recall to be Mr. Harbinson as utterly ridiculous including turning Howe/110 into a sort of hairpin turning rotary that would include diverting traffic all the up by the Plumb. I've also heard eliminating parking right on Howe. How's that going to float with downtown redevelopment not to mention current merchants?
Jeff January 24, 2013 at 12:49 PM
I partially agree with Chris. I don't think any payout would come from an investment in trees but I do agree on the fact of empty office space. The economy sucks! Lets let it come back and get that space occupied. Lets see if we can attract some big time global companies to use as maybe headquarters. This concept of workers having to live in town is a bit ridiculous at times particularly when there's a wonderful and wide infrastructure called Route 8 that delivers workers to and from Shelton everyday without much impact on the broader residential aspect of Shelton.
Teresa Gallagher January 24, 2013 at 04:16 PM
The quote purported to come from Conservation's letter, which I have before me, does not exist in that letter. Conservation stated, "The proposed zone change is inconsistent with the overall goals outlined in the City's Plan of Conservation and Development." This is because the PCD states that this area is for economic development, including "office, research, industrial, and ancillary uses in a high-quality highway-oriented setting," and that the plan further states "PDDs have allowed developers to utilize an unrestricted mix of uses with little respect for the underlying zone or adjacent land uses, resulting in...residential uses consuming scarce economic development land."
Leah Salomoni (Editor) January 24, 2013 at 05:22 PM
Teresa - you are correct. Thank you for sending me the letter via e-mail...I've uploaded the .pdf to this article and corrected the quote.
Jeff January 24, 2013 at 05:26 PM
Valuable input Teresa. Looking back now in the story I noted attorney Thomas' comment about a "rental generation". Is there some type of research paper on this concept? Is that something the city of Shelton wishes to embrace? I think most would agree that a home owner has a much greater vested interest in the property and neighborhood than a renter. Not all but some but left to the improper types of renters that could have a devastating effect on a neighborhood or community at large. So before embracing this mysterious concept of a "rental generation" perhaps all parties in Shelton should try not to get ahead of themselves because there's 10's of thousands of present residents who don't want to see their city morph into a social engineering project.
Leah Salomoni (Editor) January 24, 2013 at 11:15 PM
"Where is the infrastructure that is going to support all of this? Police? Fire? EMS? Quality schools? Water? The traffic downtown is already pretty bad at certain times. We can't let apartment lords take over the city, which is what could happen long term. What good are all of these "high end" rentals if there aren't enough jobs in the area to support them? If they remain empty, will the city have to pay extra taxes in the long term? Are there ordinances of how many unrelated people can live in them? Let's not change the town that so many people like to live in to the point that they will all be moving away and all that will be left are transient renters who won't care about the town or maintaining it for its future. Where are the workers going to come from to build these? Some out-of-state business? I doubt that there will be CT residents hired to build these, let alone Valley residents." - Kathy Moran (Comment transferred from Shelton Patch Facebook page: www.facebook.com/SheltonPatch)
thomas harbinson January 25, 2013 at 02:56 AM
I spoke to both reinforce the comments made by the Conservation Commission's letter which referenced the Plan of Conservation & Development, and speak personally as a resident because I served for nearly 2 years on the committee that prepared the Plan of Conservation & Development. That committee was chaired by an individual who helped envision in the 1970's how Shelton could take advantage of the coming Rte8 expressway. We are beneficiaries today with low tax rates due to such planning actions in the 1970's. For the City to veer from it's development and planning guidance document, it requires the change to not be just "good" for the City, it has to be Great, or Exceptional. JasonP stated as much in his comments. While some investors such as Avalon did construct rentals on Bpt Ave further to the south, when downtown became available and was ready for investment - that is where they headed. While downtown still has infrastructure issues to improve (vehicle circulation), it is ready now for further investment and residential development. Introducing intensive (250+) residential aspect to a commercial corridor causes a need for pedestrian walkways, and the associated signalization that reduced throughput of the vehicular traffic, which begins killing the goose that is laying golden eggs of tax dollars - the commercial corridor of offices, hotels, and ancillary business providing services to them.
Jeff January 25, 2013 at 12:49 PM
Everyone's points well taken. So now it's all about prioritizing. Ok so residential off of Bridgeport Ave could kill the goose. That's clearly understandable. But further residential development in downtown is choking the goose who might eventually consider laying some eggs. With an acknowledgement of infrastructure issues in downtown (I wholeheartedly and emphatically agree with) I believe the statement, "introducing intensive residential..." more fittingly applies to downtown. Priorities: fill available commercial/industrial space while greatly improving downtown infrastructure, then consider further expansion.

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