Stonebridge Crossing Development Clears PZC

Stonebridge Crossing Development Clears PZC

The Reserve at Stonebridge Crossing development in Cheshire’s north end is moving forward following the Planning and Zoning Commission’s unanimous approval of three special permit applications at its meeting on Nov. 14.

Although a resubdivision application must also still be approved, Cheshire Town Planner Michael Glidden described that matter as “a small addition to additional open space” that by statute required an application. It will be discussed at the next meeting on Nov. 28.

Neither it, nor the objections of some members of the public, will stand in the way of a project designed to add 300 apartment units to Cheshire’s housing stock, along with unspecified commercial properties.

The Commission did seek additional information about potential traffic and pedestrian access issues. While the state of Connecticut’s Office of the State Traffic Administration (OSTA) has granted approvals, attorney Anthony Fazzone, who represents the developers, said “The local traffic authority does have the opportunity to weigh in and comment to the state traffic authority, but that process is well along.”

The plans for school buses, which was a topic of concern at the meeting of Oct. 24, remained unclear. Commissioner Jeff Natale asked Fazzone why sketches provided for the meeting did not include sidewalks.

“I don’t think the plans have been updated, but we fully intend to. It’s a requirement for the sidewalks,” explained Fazzone.

Regarding the busing issue, Glidden reported on a conversation he had with Cheshire Public Schools Chief Operating Officer Vincent Masciana. In short, the District could send school buses into the private development, although “it’s not ideal.”

“They will go into a private development, however it needs to be a written request (by the property owner) with a ‘hold harmless’ sort of setup so the drivers of the buses know they’re entering private property,” Glidden explained. “You do have sidewalks along this private road so that if the development is connected to the sidewalks, you will have the ability for a child and a parent to walk out to Route 10. However, if the applicant felt it was not the ideal situation they could have bus service to the cul-de-sac. It’s a process that the Board of Ed would work directly with the operator of the apartment complex.”

Natale expressed concern that “kids are still going to need to walk through a parking lot to get to the cul-de-sac.” He called for “proper signage (and) proper crosswalks so that the children are not walking across a parking lot, they’re walking on sidewalks with crosswalks. And if they have to go out to Route 10, I’d like to see the same thing...”

Fazzone stated that “it is fully intended that there be sidewalks along the street,” meaning the cul-de-sac.

“It’s in (the apartment complex owner’s) best interests to make sure that, if you have a family that moves in there and they have a child that is going to public school, that there’s a way for them to get on the bus safely,” added Glidden.

Project Engineer Darin Overton provided further details, saying, “It would be a deviation from the Town’s standard to bring the sidewalk around to the development. We could do that (if) everyone would be in agreement to put those sidewalks in.” But, he added, “I think the best scenario is the one in between, where the children are picked up at the cul-de-sac. If that’s the case, we do agree to extend sidewalks in a reasonable manner out that drive for a safe path for children to come out and wait for the bus.”

He went on to say that “the applicant is willing to provide the safe route for the children, whatever path that is, for the school buses to pick them up.”

Jane Presnick-Lyon, a 40-year resident of Cheshire, thanked the Commission for their service, saying “It’s not an easy job.”

(My) biggest issue,” she continued, “is that about 10 years ago or so, that interchange was going to be zoned commercial-industrial and that made sense for an interchange zone. It would make a lot of sense to leave it commercial-industrial because you get a lot of tax revenue without any services to the town, not a lot of requests for services.”

She worried that the incoming residents would burden current police and fire department capabilities. She also talked about how much Cheshire has changed since she first moved to town.

“(There were) apple orchards and wide-open spaces and stuff. Now you’re changing the north end into a replica of the south end. We chose Cheshire because of the wide-open spaces and the bucolic nature of the town,” said Presnick-Lyon.

Mentioning the town of Litchfield’s conservation efforts, she said, “They worked really hard at protecting (against) the overdevelopment of their town and I think in the long run that was the correct decision. I wish that Cheshire had done that also.”

John Pepper, another resident, said he agreed with Presnick-Lyon’s commentary.

The PZC was unmoved and motions to approve the applications carried without objection.

Voicing his support for approval, Commissioner Tom Selmont responded to the public comments. He described the project site as “something that’s been trying to become something for 40 years.” Selmont pointed out that “22% of the land mass in Cheshire is preserved as open space. I don’t know another town that even comes close to that. It’s also why I moved here (open space) and I knew it couldn’t be overdeveloped. If you’re going to put 300 homes or units somewhere up against a highway for easy access on and off with minimal traffic impact, I can’t think of a better place in town to do it.”

Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Earl Kurtz III supported the project, adding, “We asked for this and we’ve been looking for this property to get developed and we’re looking forward to what might come next with the commercial and the rest of the development.”


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