Virtual PZC Hearing on Unilever Apartments May End with Ruling
The agenda for the Planning & Zoning Commission (PZC) virtual public hearing on Monday, May 4 at 7 p.m. includes the application to put apartments on the Unilever property. A light agenda means the PZC might possibly rule upon the application that evening.
In February, a public hearing was opened over an application from Michael Massimino, the owner of the former Unilever property, to turn an old office building located at 9-15 John Street into apartments.
The proposal is for 41 total apartments, with nine two-bedroom units, and 32 single-bedroom units. The building currently has two floors but the plan is to add an additional floor and use the center of the building for additional storage and common amenities for the residents.
Typically, the PZC will listen to testimony and public comments during a hearing and decide if sufficient information has been provided. If the PZC needs more information, the hearing is continued, or if the PZC members decide they have enough information they may close the hearing and then render an approval or denial at the next PZC meeting following the public hearing.
The May 4 hearing agenda also lists “Possible Deliberation and Vote”. This means the PZC could rule on the application that same night if the hearing is closed, according to consultant planner John Guszkowski.
“This is a slightly new approach. The Clinton PZC doesn’t do this very much, but there’s not a lot of other business on the current agenda, so we put it on there just in case the commission felt ready to take action. They may not be comfortable in doing so, but just in case, it’s there,” said Guszkowski.
Even if the hearing is closed, the members may decide they want more time to digest the information and decline to vote on it that night.
The hearing over the apartments officially opened in February and was continued to March to allow the developer to more time to present facts about the application. Much of the documentation required for the application was not ready for the first hearing. The second hearing was again continued from March so that the developer could address concerns from the PZC. The commission primarily wanted to review more information related to stormwater systems and the septic design for the property.
The next hearing was supposed to be held in the first week of April, but like so many board and commission meetings, it was canceled over coronavirus concerns. The virtual hearing will be the first meeting of the PZC since March.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the hearing will be held online. To perticipate in the meeting, click the link visit global.gotomeeting.com/join/674166749 on a computer, smart phone, or tablet and then enter the password “GoClinton!” The link can also be found on the agenda for the hearing on the town’s website. Callers can dial into the meeting by calling 571-317-3122 and using access code 674-166-749.
The application has drawn an official intervenor, Judy Rasmussen, who lives on John Street and abuts the property. Attorney Keith Ainsworth, who represents Rasmussen, has said that he and the developer have had productive conversations to address some of his client’s concern, but he still was worried about the traffic flow, especially on John Street.
Currently John Street is a one-way street that links Route 81/High Street with the former Unilever site. In March, the Town Council recommend that the town’s traffic authority consider turning John Street into a dead end to stop traffic from using the neighborhood as an entrance to the Unilever property and to prevent an increased traffic flow in the residential neighborhood.
July 2019 brought big news to Clinton: the former Unilever property that sat vacant as a tantalizing redevelopment opportunity was finally sold after years of rumors and false starts. In the fall 2019, the developer was granted permission from the PZC to use a portion of the property for an indoor turf field.
In January, an application was submitted to turn part of headquarters building into a brewery. However, the developer informed the PZC in March that the application needed to be withdrawn. The reason the application had to be pulled stated by Massimino was due to the timeline for the state to review an application for historic building preservation. Massimino said that review is expected to last into the summer, which would go beyond the allowed duration the PZC is able to keep a public hearing open for. If the building is deemed to be historic by the state the developer would be eligible for tax credits. Massimino said he intends to resubmit the brewery application down the road.