Planning and Zoning Approves Controversial Subdivision

Planning and Zoning Approves Controversial Subdivision

The Planning and Zoning Commission gave its final approval, by a vote of 7-2, on Sept. 26 for a controversial subdivision that has been the cause of debate in town for months.

During their regular meeting on Monday night, the PZC considered three applications relating to the controversial Lovley development project proposed for a lot at 648 Wallingford Rd. and 66/14 Talmadge Rd. Despite some negative and at times heated public input regarding the development, in the end only two Commissioners voted against approving the cluster subdivision, thus removing a final obstacle for the Kurtz family’s development plans.

Cheshire Town Planner Michael Glidden, who stated at the Sept. 12 meeting that he felt the record supported approval, read the Commission’s findings into the public record. To summarize, the special permit is to allow construction of 20 single-family homes; the homes will be served by public water and sewer and all utilities will be underground; any land not designated for development will be set aside for open space; a homeowners’ association will be created to manage the open space and the stormwater basin; and driveways have been designed to provide adequate off-street parking, in addition to attached garages.

Special mention was made of the two vernal pools on the property, one of which is a “high-functioning feature” that will be protected for the long term by the terms of the permit. The area will also connect with a “budding open space” and create a future green belt.

Commissioner Robert Brucato read a brief statement in favor of the application, stating “it will benefit the town, allowing more families to move into Cheshire.” He added, “I find it frustrating that a small handful of individuals have been continuously accusing this Commission and have been obstructing progress by holding up this approval of this new development, including other good applications submitted prior to this site.”

Commissioner John Kardaras echoed some of Brucato’s frustrations, saying “It makes no difference whatsoever who the seller is. Whether the developer is from Cheshire or North Korea, it’s not something that we consider.” He added, “It’s also my finding that open space is desirable and beneficial for the town of Cheshire. I intend to vote for it because it meets all the requirements mentioned in the application.”

Commissioner Louis Todisco mentioned that he voted against the previous application, but stated he would support this version. “That was a much denser project than this (version), plus it required a change in zone. There was opposition from the neighbors and while neighbor opposition can’t result in not approving a proper application, certainly we consider it. They convinced me that the last application was not in harmony with their neighborhood, and that’s why I voted against it. … Here we don’t need a change of zone. Twenty homes on 24 acres, everything fits.”

Todisco also argued against the notion of leaving the land “vacant forever” because the applicant “as of right” could have built 16 homes. “I think the other four homes do not change the application significantly.”

 “It wasn’t very nice to get accused of this, that, and the other thing,” said Commissioner Tom Selmont. Addressing the neighbors who spoke against the application, he added, “I heard your arguments and they were pretty good, but at the end of the day, the developer and the property owner have the right to do what they want to do, so long as it fits the regulations and everything else that’s been decided up here.”

Commissioner Matt Bowman, after voicing general agreement with those in favor, thanked Chairman Sean Strollo “for being so lenient on letting the public speak, sometimes on issues that were not germane to what Planning and Zoning has to take into consideration.” Referencing the Norman Rockwell painting that used to hang in Town Hall, he said, “One of the most important things is the right of the public to speak.”

Commissioner S. Woody Dawson spoke against approval. “They knew it was R40 zoned and they took advantage of our rules, in all honesty. I feel that it’s making a big change in that area, in that neighborhood, and I just don’t feel comfortable voting for it, so I’m voting against it.”

Commissioner Jeff Natale also remained unconvinced. “I’ve asked the applicant for three months now what the benefits for the town were. First answer I got was taxes. Second answer I got was wetlands. Third answer I got was, well, now we’re going to increase the open space. There’s a lot of questions that came up from some of the neighbors that I don’t know were answered adequately or totally. I don’t know that I’m satisfied with everything that was part of this application.”

Strollo compared this application to developments such as Copper Beech and Monarch Place off Coleman Road, concluding “I believe in cluster subdivisions, I believe in open space. Houses sell here (in Cheshire) because we have a beautiful community. We have good people in town. And not everybody agrees with everything, and that’s part of life. Not everyone’s going to agree. That’s what a commission does. We all form, we come to an opinion and we vote on it.”


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