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Border Plan Pits C-Town Vs. Neighbors
by Thomas MacMillan | Dec 27, 2012 9:29 am
Posted to: Business/ Economic Development, Fair Haven
C-Town’s owner wants to replace two old homes with a commercial building. Would that naturally expand a successful business area? Or erode residential Fair Haven—bringing more rats and trash?
The City Plan Commission considered those questions last week as it heard testimony on an application for a zoning change affecting three Fair Haven properties.
On behalf of Marcos Paulino, owner of the C-Town supermarket, Fair Haven Alderman Ernie Santiago has asked the Board of Aldermen to change the zoning of 137 and 141 Exchange St. and a portion of 184 Grand Ave bordering the C-Town shopping plaza now used as a parking lot (pictured above). The change would clear the way for the demolition of two 19th century multi-family houses on Exchange Street and the construction of a new commercial building, of a use to be determined.
The area is on the border between residential and commercial neighborhoods, a place where one use’s gain can be the other’s loss.
Santiago sought the blessing of the City Plan Commission on the proposed change. He won that blessing, narrowly. In a split 3-2 vote, the commission approved the proposal.
Two commissioners were swayed by testimony from an Exchange Street couple who said the C-Town property is already a source of trash and rats that infiltrate the neighborhood. Michael and Jeannine Graham said they’re concerned about a loss of the residential character of the neighborhood if the zone change goes through.
The matter now heads to the Board of Alderman’s Legislation Committee for a public hearing in January. Jeannine Graham said she’ll be there with additional opposed neighbors.
Santiago and Paulino seek to change the zoning from RM-1, “low-middle density residential,” to BA-1, a business zone.
City Plan Director Karyn Gilvarg (pictured) explained to commissioners that BA-1 permits residential uses, but the focus is commercial. The properties in question are right on the border between RM-1 and BA-1 zones, she said. The border runs right through one of the properties, 184 Grand Ave.
Gilvarg said the City Plan Department recommends approval: “This seems to straighten out the split zoning of the Grand Avenue parcel and could allow for growth of the shopping center.”
Santiago told commissioners that the two houses at 137 and 141 Exchange (pictured) are in bad condition. “It would take a lot of money to fix them,” and no one would pay the rents required to cover the cost, he said.
Paulino is looking for “a good customer” to build on the lots, Santiago said. “Maybe an Ace Hardware.”
The change would create neighborhood jobs, as C-Town has, Santiago said. And it would bring in more taxes to the city, he argued. “Everybody will benefit.”
Santiago (pictured) said Exchange would remain without curb cuts onto the properties. Any entrance to the new business would be from Ferry Street, he said.
Santiago said he went house-to-house and delivered fliers about the proposed change. Three neighbors then showed up in favor of the plan at a Community Management Team meeting, he said.
“We’re not going to hurt anybody,” said Paulino. “It’s something for the future.”
Jeannine Graham, who’s lived for 23 years with Michael and four kids across the street at 130 Exchange St., said she never got a letter from Santiago. She said she’s against the plan.
“We already have a rat problem,” she said. “You don’t take care of that.”
She said she’s complained repeatedly to C-Town and the city about garbage and vermin problems at the shopping center, with no results.
“That complaint never came to me,” said Paulino (pictured). He said he has never received any kind of “ticket” from the city for not keeping up his property.
“My heart is quiet,” he said. “If I don’t get anything from the city and the state” it means there is no problem there.
The area is unsafe for kids as it is, due to traffic, Graham said. The speed humps on Exchange don’t work because they don’t go all the way across the street. Taking away more residential property will only make the traffic worse, she argued.
“It’s something we can work on,” Paulino said.
Jeannine (pictured) said she watches C-Town workers blow garbage into the street from the parking lot, where drug users hang out. A visit to Exchange Street found a variety of pieces of trash in the street (pictured).
“It sounds like they’re willing to work with you,” said Commission Audrey Tyson
“They’re just taking away from the residential feel,” Jeannine said. “It’s fine the way it is.”
“I hate drugs. I hate bums,” Paulino said. “We can work together. That’s the man that I am.”
“I don’t see one building there changing everything that much,” said commission Chair Ed Mattison. He pointed out that the area already has a McDonald’s, a Subway, a beauty salon, and C-Town.
“I know. It’s enough,” said Jeannine. “You’re cutting into residential.”
Several commissioners noted that even with a zone change, the city would still have opportunity to shape whatever Paulino might decide to build there, through site plan reviews.
Mattison said the change does make sense, given the area. Commissioner and Westville Alderman Adam Marchand said he worries that business zoning could mean fewer eyes on the street. That risk has to be balanced with the promise of new jobs, he said. He raised the danger of a slow creep: an expansion of the commercial corridor could lead to yet more such expansion.
When it came time for voting, Marchand voted to deny the plan. He was joined by Commissioner Tyson. The remaining three commissioners voted to approve the zone change.
After the vote, Alderman Ernie Santiago noted that Jeannine Graham’s alderman, Gabriel Santiago, has been MIA for months. “So that’s something that’s hurting her.”
“No one has a voice for us on our street,” Graham said.
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What a disaster. This kind of destruction of our neighborhoods, when there are perfectly good commercial sites nearby, is unacceptable.
Can you imagine the uproar if someone tried to change a zoning designation to plop an Ace Hardward into the middle of East Rock? But no, it’s Fair Haven, so development without concern quality of life and neighborhood character is beside the point, it seems.
FrontStreet, due to misguided city policies, the neighborhood is falling into a terminal decline.
So I suppose that people are desperate, and willing to turn a once-thriving neighborhood into a (soon to be abandoned) asphalt strip mall. It wouldn’t happen in East Rock or Westville.
The CCNE alderman is a no-show, which is no surprise given that this private special interest’s only policy priority is to increase the flow of wealth away from low-income residents in the city, and towards its almost entirely suburban-based unions.
I don’t like this idea at all, tearing down well built houses for strip mall. However, I understand that rehabbing these houses could never recover the costs of the work.
In the last five years or so, I have watch three of the four hardware stores in my patch of New Haven/Hamden go under.
It would seems that the NHI will not allow any comments that are contrary to how the P & Z operates or any criticism thereof.
Moderators: Where do all the lost comments go ? and why wouldn’t you notify users via email that there comment wasn’t approved. Per the rules you have the discretion to not post comments, but at what point are you limiting the free speach of the posters if they are complying with all the rules?? or is it a technical glitch that comments get lost?
[Editor: Thank you for commenting! Our policy is here: No, we don’t have staff/time to archive rejected comments or write back. Yes, we try to hold back on the nasty personal attacks. Including whether people look fat or urgly not. Sorry. You can probably get those comments posted on other news sites if you like.]
posted by: Darryl Brackeen Jr on December 27, 2012 2:44pm
I’m trying to understand if there is an economic benefit in having C-Town or housing if so what is the difference? Secondly, if the immediate neighbors are opposed, why on earth would you push the limit? Businesses are NOT voters, PEOPLE are voters (unless there is some other underlying issue not stated in this article). Also if I’m not mistaken I thought the east side’s population was on the rise, wont there be a need for additional housing ? Don’t get me wrong I’m for small business and economic development but when do we start rebuilding better neighborhoods for the people sake?
As a resident of Fair Haven, I feel as though the current elected officials have abandoned us - no worse, I feel as though they are actively working to destroy New Haven’s most beautiful and potentially valuable neighborhood. First, rather than improving and humanizing access to the neighborhood (Chapel and Grand), the city proposes to industrialize it and dehumanize the landscape with a high rise human warehouse, and now this. The C-Town and other plazas should definitely not be expanded (escpecially when it appears legal process has not been followed)unless held to a much higher standard. That parking lot is a nightmare. Why not try to unite East Rock and Fair Haven, both equally beautiful neighborhoods. That would truly benefit all of New Haven.
Lets try this
How is it that a property falls half on one zone and half in another for what a .15 acre lot? seems they (the P & Z) should be reviewing their maps better.
I’m sure they ( the P & Z) will be able to waive all the parking requirements to build whatever it is they want to do to do although I agree that using already existing commercial properties would be a more prudent method of improving retail. Unfortunately Hardware stores have been replaced by the two mega giant chains we all know.
Shame on C-Town for their improper land maintenance- Has the Health dept and LCI been involved with this ? they are usually very good about pursuing these types of violations.
Lastly, has the only plan that’s been rejected lately the laundromat on Whalley. It just seems like an approval bonanza lately with variances abound.
Saying CTown is the reason that area is trashed is a bit of a stretch. CTown MIGHT be the cleanest grocery story in New Haven. You can practically do brain surgery in the aisles. The neglect and filth in that area have a lot more to do with fly by night business and residences than CTown in my travels.
That said, there are PLENTY of empty commercial lots in that area.
Marchand = JOB JOBS JOBS… Is the the same city hall that used red tape to drive the proposed Colony site two blocks away and about 100 new walking-distance entry-level jobs to Orange?
The homes look perfectly fine to me. The questions to ask are! Who owns them and why does C- Town want them. The encroachment is a bad precedent on a residential neighborhood. Which is happening all over New Haven. The residents who support the store should be respected. Why are they approving a plan that demolishes perfectly good housing for new construction. The details are a bit murky and
we need to get more details sounds like a back room deal to me.
We need a strong Alder-person to help maintain and shape the future of our neighborhood better none as the 14th ward. I think Mr Paulino and alderman Santiago are taking advantage of the fact that we have no representation on the Board of Alderman right now. C-town wants to make more profit and thats ok but they give nothing back to the community. I have ask what has C-town done for the neighborhood lately, nada - Nothing. You don’t have to believe me ask the Youth in the neighborhood who need Jobs, the Non-for-profits in the community that provide service to the needy and the Churches they’ll all tell you nothing. Ask the homeless they’ll tell you He said so himself he hates us called us bums!. So why should we grant Mr Paulino anything. He will be changing the character of the neighborhood for a Ace Hardware. Alderman Santiago nice person but this is not his political ward proper, But yet he went lobbying for Mr. Paulino personally door to door. Why should we give up two house for Mr Paulino, taxses are not going to change much in fact they’ll be reduced while he get a tenant and it remains part of a lot Sorry Enie everybody does not win in this deal but Mr. Paulino.
posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on December 30, 2012 9:13pm
137 and 141 Exchange Street are part of the Quinnipiac River Historic District, which is a Local Historic District, a State Register Historic District and a National Register Historic District. Furthermore, 137 is a contributing building to the historic district as a ca. 1850, 2-1/2-story, 3-bays wide frame Carpenter Gothic house with a gable end facing the street.
If there is demand for more commercial space near the intersection of Grand Avenue and Ferry Street, which is a very real possibility, then future growth in the area should reflect the character of the existing area. The most appropriate location for new development would be on the existing parking lot area.
There is an existing municipal (public) parking lot at the opposite corner of Ferry and Grand, which could abundantly serve an expanded commercial area here.
The character of any new development should reflect either the late-19th- to early-20th-century mixed-use commercial thoroughfare architecture of Grand Avenue west of Ferry Street or the early-to-mid 19th century mixed use village architecture of Grand Avenue east of Ferry Street. A 3 story brick masonry building with large glass ground floor retail space, or a 2-story gable roof commercial building with upper story offices with dormer windows could both be appropriate additions to the corner lot at Grand and Ferry. Development along Exchange Street seems extremely unnecessary and inappropriate at this point.
So examples of appropriate development at this intersection are Ken Boroson Architects’ Artists Lofts West at West Rock and Whalley Avenues in Westville (http://goo.gl/maps/tYhoz), or Norton and Townsend’s Park Street Commercial Building in the West Village (now demolished).
Kate Ohno and John Herzan. National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination “Quinnipiac River Historic District” (National Park Service, 1983)
New Haven Historic Preservation Trust. Quinnipiac River Historic District “http://nhpt.org/index.php/site/district/quinnipiac_river_historic_district/”
City of New Haven. Historic Districts “http://www.cityofnewhaven.com/Maps/pdfs/HistoricDist_Map_Draft_34x42.pdf”
my children grew up on exchange st…what a shame,ctown should be torned down,put ace hardware there…the rats will leave once their home is gone
Once again the city plan tries to placate the business owners at the expense of the neighborhood. With a new configuration of the C-Town parking lot and some serious thinking the city can save the historic buildings and come up with a viable plan for the community. Bring all the stake holders together including the neighbors and come up with something positive for the community. Not More demolishing of historic registered homes!