Two new retail projects, along with a five-story medical/professional office tower proposed for River Road got their first airing this week before the Planning and Zoning Commission.
The owner of the wildly popular , Howard Soffan, unveiled two separate plans to bring a mixed-used project to 762 River Rd., and 781-785 River Rd., respectively.
Soffan, under his company Bishop Management, has proposed renovating an existing industrial building at 762 River Rd., on 3.95 acres next to the Sports Center, and turning it into an 11,800 square foot retail shopping center.
On the back of that same property, Soffan has proposed construction of five-story medical/office building. That building is slated to boast 58,000 square feet.
Soffan is seeking a zone change to a Planned Development District for the property, which is currently zoned industrial.
The retail building, according to Shelton architect Joe Mingolello, could be used for a single tenant, or divided to accommodate up to four different tenants. There is also a drive-up window included in the retail plan, but Soffan stressed he has absolutely no plans to bring in a coffee shop or fast-food restaurant there. The space may be more ideally suited for a bank, he said.
The commission, if it approves the zone change, ultimately has the ability to control the type of tenants that move in there.
Engineer Jim Swift, of Shelton, said the proposal would include about 260 new parking spaces.
The medical building could also house a single tenant on each of its five floors, or be divided to accommodate multiple tenants, according to Mingolello.
The exterior of the buildings call for a mix of glass and granite. The glass aspect, however, raised some concerns for Commissioner Joan Flannery, who is afraid the abundance of birds living near the Housatonic River could potentially crash into the building. The glass reflecting off the river could spell danger for wildlife, she said.
“It’s an environmental hazard for wildlife, especially eagles,” Flannery said.
Soffan said there is new technology in the works for glass wall exteriors that act as a deterrent to bird crashes, which he plans to keep on top of, and hopes to incorporate that into his buildings.
A few nearby neighbors to the proposed projects expressed concerns about the potential of increased traffic to the already congested River Road.
A traffic engineer for Soffan explained in detail that traffic on the road would remain average with the addition of the new projects, especially because he said traffic in the area has actually decreased, due to the economy.
Bill Purcell, president of the Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce, said he supports the proposal, saying “it represents an attractive re-use of an existing building,” and will help spark the local economy.
“It’s the first new office construction in quite some time,” Purcell said, adding with Sikorsky nearby, and the road already heavily traveled with 6,000 Sikorsky employees, Soffan‘s development will “have a nominal impact“ to the area.
Soffan’s second proposal, this one slated for across the street from the Sports Center at 781-785 River Rd., calls for construction of a 5,800 sq. ft. retail building on 1.08 acres.
The property is currently zoned residential, and Soffan is also seeking a zone change to a PDD there.
The one-story retail building would include 29 parking spaces, and a drive-up window, according to Swift, and could possibly accommodate a single tenant like a bank, or up to three different tenants.
While Swift said the building would not be visible to abutting neighbors, and substantial landscape buffering are included in the proposal, several neighbors were not willing to roll out the welcome out.
Tuner Road resident John Wardowski, who lives right next door to the proposed site, urged the commission to let the property remain residential.
“Right now it’s residential, and I think that’s how it should be,” he said.
Wardowski said he’s concerned the building could house a restaurant, and fears the fumes from it, and increased traffic, could seriously impact his property value.
And with significant blasted necessary on the parcel, Wardowski and another abutting neighbor, Joe Mozder, expressed concerns about potential damage to their septic tanks and home’s foundations.
Soffan assured that just like when the Sports Center was built, pre- and post- blast surveys were done on neighbors’ homes, and he worked with people to make sure the neighbors were happy.
The commission closed both public hearings, and will begin deliberations on whether to approve the zone changes at its meeting next month.