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The proposed expanded Parkside Village 1, with 67 units in a single building, is shown in this rendering shared during the public hearing portion of the application. Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
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In a straw poll taken Jan. 8, three of five Planning & Zoning Commission (PZC) members showed they are currently in favor of making some kind of positive decision to approve redevelopment and expansion of Parkside Village I, with conditions in recognition of limitations of Connecticut General Statutes (CSG) 8-30g for affordable housing.
The poll was not a vote and was taken as a way to gauge the commission for the purposes of giving guidance to Town Planner Harry Smith, who is tasked with penning a draft resolution to bring back to the PZC for a formal vote on the three-part application, Smith told Zip06/The Sound. The draft resolution will spell out conditions that would be contingent as part of a possible PZC approval.
On Jan. 8, the 3-2 straw poll split showed PZC Chair Chuck Andres and commissioners John Lust and Joe Viauso in consensus about the possibility of approving with conditions, while commissioner Marci Palluzzi and alternate Fred Russo indicated they did not support such a decision. Russo is voting on the matter in place of commissioner Joe Chadwick, who has recused himself. Chadwick is a past member of the Branford Housing Authority (BHA), which owns Parkside Village 1, located at 115 South Montowese Street.
With 50 units built more than 40 years ago, Parkside Village 1 is currently restricted to affordable elderly and disabled adult housing. BHA and Beacon are seeking approval for its renovation and expansion as a Section 8-30g Assisted Housing District, with 67 newly constructed units to include a mix of all-age residents and families prioritized by the state.
Opponents of the proposed expansion and zoning change include neighbors who have successfully filed with the PZC a state-required protest petition that could affect one portion of the three-part application, the zoning map change request to create the Parkside Assisted Housing District on the parcel. The other portions of the application that require a regular majority vote include zoning regulation amendments in the form of text change requirements for the new district, as well as the project's site plan/coastal site plan.
Due to the petition, a PZC vote approving the zoning map change would require a "super majority" and the straw poll, as it stands, doesn't add up to one, said Smith.
"The protest petition was filed and the commission accepted it, so that raises the bar on a super majority to a 4-1 vote; so three in favor would not be enough to approve [the zoning map amendment]," said Smith.
Should that happen, the denial of zoning map portion of the decision is expected to be appealed by BHA and the applicant, developer Beacon Communities of Boston, Massachusetts.
If the PZC were to vote for application approval with a non-super majority (three in favor), once relevant conditions of approval are addressed, the other segments of the approved application (text amendment change, site/coastal plan approvals) would allow Beacon to begin to take actions such as requesting building permits, said Smith.
There are still some unanswered questions about other items tied to the project, most notably, the fact that the town has yet to formally approve, through the Representative Town Meeting, BHA and Beacon's use of town property that will allow for a needed emergency access roadway cut in from Melrose Avenue (Beacon has said it has alternatives to that plan, namely widening Sliney Road, although the Melrose connection would be optimal). That would likely be a requirement of any PZC approval.
"They have a long way to go, even if they get approval," from the PZC, said Smith.
Smith said he is currently working in conjunction with the Town Attorney's office on the way to finalizing a draft resolution, which may--or may not--be ready for review and possible action by the PZC at its next meeting, Thursday, Jan. 18. While the item will be on the agenda, it likely will not be ready for a vote that night, said Smith. The PZC has a window of 65 days from the close of the Dec. 7, 2017 public hearing to make a decision, which means the vote could be delayed until early February, if needed.
Read more about the Dec. 7, 2017 public hearing close here.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly noted the PZC's regular majority vote margin as 4-1 and the application as four-part; corrections have been made.
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