Branford PZC approves modified Beacon affordable housing plan for Parkside Village I

The existing, 50-unit, three-building Parkside Village 1 complex on South Montowese Street in Branford.

BRANFORD — The Planning and Zoning Commission has approved Beacon Communities Development’s application for modifications to its June 2019 approval to replace the Housing Authority’s Parkside Village I complex with an “affordable housing” development.

The PZC, by a 3-2 vote Thursday night, approved several modifications to Beacon’s controversial plan, for which the commission previously granted conditional approval. Beacon subsequently challenged conditions related to the approval in court.

After the meeting, Beacon’s attorney, Timothy Hollister, declined to comment on the approval.

He would not say whether the approval spelled out in an 8-page, legalese-packed resolution would keep the matter from going back to court, saying he wasn’t yet sure what the commission had done.

Among the various citations and references to letters, plans and other documents relating to the application contained throughout the resolution is the statement that “modifications to this application will be necessary because, without the modifications, these interests clearly outweigh the need for affordable housing.”

PZC Chairman Chuck Andres and members John Lust and Joseph Vaiuso voted in favor of approval; members Marcia Palluzzi and Fred Russo voted against it.

The modifications related to an emergency pullover area alongside the access drive to adjacent Sliney Field that Fire Marshal Shaun Heffernan required the application to have, which the developers moved so that it was entirely on their property.

The PZC has been concerned, however, that access to the emergency pullover area still relies on town-owned property that the developers don’t control and could be affected if the town at some point in the future were to build a retaining wall or something else nearby.

Members have suggested that the developer still might need an easement from the town to ensure that the area remains open and dedicated for such emergency access. An easement likely would require approval from the Representative Town Meeting.

Andres repeated Thursday that the issue still might need to go to the RTM.

The town’s attorney in the matter, Danielle Bercury, said “the entire application contemplates that road being open and the town accepting that easement.”

Andres said, “it probably wouldn’t upset the project if the town didn’t accept the easement.”

“If town didn’t accept it, it could probably modify it at that time,” said Bercury.

The plan calls to build a single, L-shaped building with 67 units, including 33 one-bedroom units and 34 two-bedroom units. It would replace the current 50-unit, three-building Parkside complex at 115 S. Montowese St., which was built in the early 1970s.

About 20 people attended the meeting for the Parkside application — many of them neighbors who have been there for practically every meeting and hearing that has taken place on it for the past several months.

An additional 50 or so people appeared to be at the meeting for a public hearing on a separate application for a zone change from R-4 to R-1 to build housing on a portion of the former St. Elizabeth’s Church property at 65-99 Burban Drive.

Those people left after representatives of the developer withdrew the application, with John Mancini, principal of BL Companies architects and engineers of Meriden, saying, “There’s clearly a misunderstanding of the application.”

Mancini suggested people are misinterpreting the developer’s plans, saying, “We’re here for 36,000 square feet of land,” or about three-quarters of an acre. “This is not about all the land,” he said. “My client does not have the authority to develop the rest of the property.

People clapped when Mancini told the PZC, “I’m suggesting that it would be best for us to withdraw the application.”

But after the meeting, Burban Drive resident Theresa Bonadies called the withdrawal “a game,” and said it came “because they knew they were going to get rejected for the zone change.”

Burban Drive resident Mary Laskey said, “We don’t want our neighborhood overdeveloped. We want them to stay within the R-4 zoning, just like we have to do.”

Connecticut Media Group