They came bearing laptops, photos, maps, and soil erosion projections. Their argument: an apartment complex for people with disabilities should not be built on this pristine site along the water in the Quinnipiac River.
Not least among their concerns: that local families will lose easy access to their riverine beach, and they will see an historic beech tree cut down.
That was the message Chris Ozyck, Ian Christmann, and other neighborhood homeowners brought to a meeting at City Hall Wednesday night of the Historic District Commission (HDC).
Before they could make their case, Gary DeWolf, architect for property owner and developer Continuum of Care withdrew the application.
But only for a technicality
“I’ll be back,” he said. He called the project an improvement over an earlier idea for the property, and one that will increase, not block, public access to the water.
It was the latest skirmish in a five-year-old debate over the use of this half acre between Aner and Oxford Streets on Quinnipiac Avenue.
Back in 2007 DeWolf, then representing a condominium developer of the site for a project called Oyster Shores, presented elevations for condos that were deemed too heavily massed and which alelgedly obstructed the water views of homeowners on the eastern side of the avenue. DeWolf revised the massing in a manner that pleased the HDC.
However that project fell through anyway, and the land was left undeveloped. Neighborhood families now use it as a local beach.
The new owner, Continuum Care, proposes a smaller structure at the south end of the property, two stories that comprise 11 one- and two-bedroom apartments, for a total of 5,500 square feet. DeWolf said the apartments will house people with disabilities acclimating a return to normal living.
By way of example, he suggested returning veterans who will live there under supervision. He said the tenants could be short term or permanent; he was not sure.
City Plan Director Karyn Gilvarg said the presentation for a certificate of appropriateness from the HDC was withdrawn Wednesday because the zoning had to be secured first before an HDC certificate of appropriateness.
“494 Quinnipiac is in a BC zone [Commercial Marine]. Residential use requires a special permit through the City Plan Commission—public hearing. Need to do that first and then go to HDC,” she wrote in an email after the meeting.
In material that Ozyck prepared but did not present, he wrote that many in the community feel the structure is too large and institutional to be appropriate to the historic nature of the neighborhood.
DeWolf said the plans, which are in the early stages, call for a structure composed of a series of gabled rectangles. It is half the size of the Oyster Shores offering of five years ago.
Ozyck’s prepared remarks called the massing “overpowering.” He called for the building to be separated into parts. As is, he said, that it will overpower the 1700s salt box house adjacent to the property.
The plans in his possession,he noted, further show that the ancient beech tree on the south side of the property would be lost.
Fair Haven Alderwoman Maureen O’Sullivan-Best, who huddled with neighbors in the hall after DeWolf’s departure, said the documents she has seen indicate the walkways down to the water’s edge are marked for tenants only.
Before he went off to consult with his client, DeWolf said the access to the beachfront will be for everyone and far more accessible than it is today.
Ozyck said that public access to the water is a right that must be guaranteed in new construction. He said he remains concerned about the erosion, about how the walkway will be secured, and about the high density and size of the structures.
He said he had no issue with the use of a building. “The most important thing is what the building looks like, not what happens inside,” he said.
Another neighbor present, Dan Kops, questioned the wisdom of having a population of people struggling with disabilities living beside a fast- running and potentially dangerous tidal river. He nodded to Ian Christmann, who recently paddled to the rescue of people floundering in the water.
The next step will be a public hearing on the zoning, likely before the Board of Zoning Appeals. Ozyck said he and his neighbors will be there.
posted by: Lisa on November 10, 2011 9:57am
Yes, we need a park here, not a new ugly building! This neighborhood needs more preservation of natural space and existing, historic architecture to keep it a nice place to live. Thanks to all involved in working to save this spot.
posted by: FairHavenRes on November 10, 2011 10:51am
I’m curious what kind of project / building *should* go here, in the eyes of those who live nearby. I understand the protestations over the Oyster project, as the buildings were too large for the space and blocked the views, but what DO residents ultimately want to see here; has that been discussed? Thanks.
posted by: William Kurtz on November 10, 2011 11:45am
Waterfront, of all kinds, is a public resource and the public, almost without exception, should be guaranteed access. No buildings, again, almost without exception, should be built between the public right-of-way (i.e. street, sidewalk) and the shore of a large body of water.
posted by: Peter Simon on November 10, 2011 11:59am
Preserve the open space. In this city we need more calming views and areas, walk or drive (with windows down) over the Grand ave bridge on a nice day or walk through the front street park and you will know what I mean. Water over concrete and mortar anyday. We need t preserve our open space for everyone. Why cant the City’s development office help these developers re-work a brown site or what about those never completed condos farther down Quinnipiac.
posted by: MarkH on November 10, 2011 12:17pm
Socialism at its best. You own property in New Haven, then the public demands unfettered use of it. If I am in the area, perhaps I can drop by and use Mr. Ozyck’s bathroom. After all, it should be public access if I need or want it. It is this kind of anti-development mentality that is depriving people of jobs and safe housing. It keeps the economy depressed without the sales of consumer goods such housing would require. I want what you have, but you can’t have what I have. Let the politics of New Haven planning begin! Absolutely disgraceful.
posted by: Fairhaven Dave on November 10, 2011 1:21pm
Who would be foolish enough to fund a residential building project on this site?
Half of this property is below the FEMA flood line and was submerged during Irene. There is not enough parking on Q-Ave for the residents opposite. A massive environmental cleanup is required before construction. The entire seawall will need to be replaced. Every house adjacent is ready to sue if site lines to river views are obscured.
I know it’s a long shot; but if we want to fill all the empty houses on the hillside of Ward 13 with tax paying responsible citizens, if the city is okay with allowing riverfront property to be used for tax exempt purposes, this should be officially made a public park so the whole city can continue to enjoy it.
And to the current owner: Get down here once a week and mow your grass and pick up the litter. People on the odd side of the street are tired of doing it for you.
posted by: Fairhaven Dave on November 10, 2011 1:48pm
In my experience, Chris O has never denied anybody use of his bathroom, (which he keeps immaculate, by the way).
I partially agree with your Libertarian stance on property rights. BUT Continuum of Care will not be paying property taxes on riverfront lots. All while huge numbers of perfectly acceptable structures remain in foreclosure all over the city. Smell any socialism there?
posted by: Ian Christmann on November 10, 2011 2:16pm
Mark H. Condos and apartment buildings along the water are required by law to provide public access to the water. Go piss in your own toilet. I think the best use of this property is returning it to the individual lots that it previously had before a developer in the 80s? torn the houses down. This parcel provides some of the most amazing views and what a shame to have it off the tax base. My preference, if that matters, is to see this parcel be returned to individual lots for homes that can maintain view sheds and integrate with the scale of the houses around it.
posted by: 2Unique on November 10, 2011 4:10pm
Something nobody has mentioned…property taxes. Right now, the parcel generates about $4,700 in real estate taxes. Additional taxes could be generated by an appropriate for-profit use. Continuum of Care is a not-for-profit and proposes a use that takes the property off the tax rolls. That means more tax burden on already overburdened residents. Why can’t this facility be built in Woodbridge or Bethany…both lovely towns with lovely views of their own. It’s time the Region, not just the City, starts sharing in these social burdens.
posted by: Curious on November 10, 2011 4:21pm
Why not put in a kayak launch here?
Some parking, some paths, that’s all you need. Get some grant money for it.
Better yet, build a launch, build an outpost, and slap a parks and rec employee there - charge money for people to launch kayaks.
posted by: Edsicle on November 10, 2011 4:53pm
I did not realize that NonProfit status automatically granted Tax Exempt Status from Real Estate Taxes. Does there need to be an application to the taxing authorities for the exemption? If so, why not present your arguments against, at that hearing? NonProfit does not mean they do not generate “excess revenues” over “expenditures”. Maybe someone should look at the financial condition of the “developer”.
posted by: Fairhaven Dave on November 10, 2011 7:19pm
NIMBY, sweet Jesus. Already using misperceived intolerance as a shield. Nobody I have spoken with has a beef with CoC or what they do. Stop hiding behind PC rhetoric and re-read the article so you understand what the community is saying. We made the same points five years ago when it was going to be used for half million dollar condos.
It’s a stupid place to build, PERIOD. Every structure built on that site has been destroyed or damaged beyond repair by mother nature. Whomever purchased it for this usage did not do their research. Ward 13 is dotted with foreclosures that could be CoC residences for 1/16th the cost in half the time without having to worry about flood surges, hurricanes, EPA cleanups, zoning variances, etc…
People surrounding that lot purchased their homes because that property was zoned in a way that made them feel comfortable investing in this neighborhood. The fact that this irritates them is completely justified. Go look at the drawings and the current zoning before you post more nonsense.
posted by: Mr Ozyck on November 10, 2011 9:22pm
Mark H - Most people call me Chris. The heights is a working class neighborhood and we aim to keep it that way with an eye toward the history, natural assets and diversity that has brought and kept most of us here. Yeah I hate so much of the liberal housing codes that allow for 21 unrelated coed people to live in one residential house in a residential neighborhood. But I digress…
The first use most would like to see is a water dependent use. If this use were commercial we would have no access claim and be fine with it. Secondly we would like to see a quasi public facility such as fishing charters, marina, rowing club, or a coop aquaculture staging area etc.
Third choice is individual homes or townhouses. If these can be low to moderate income all the better. We have some highly capable individuals exploring this option. Home facing homes makes a neighborhood. Homes facing an institution and open parking lots lower opportunity for community building. This choice may or may not guarantee public access.
Last choice is condos. These can easily become renter havens or institutionalized. Continuum is presenting plans for only one of the two lots it has purchased. We fully expect a development proposal in the future for the much larger site to the North and the one in the middle if they can get their hands on that one too.
Walk the site- you will see the 20’ slope to the mean high tide line but the plans only show a ten foot drop. The plans do not show how they plan to handle the grade issues, place the public access walk, or manage the storm water on the site. I sort of feel for the architect- the economy is tough and its hard to fit 5 pound of ugly into a 3 pound sack.
posted by: WitchBurner on November 10, 2011 10:04pm
How about we clean up what we have already on quinnipiac before we move forward? Drug dealings all over the street, from the north to the south.. Speeding traffic, high crime, mail being stolen, garbage everywhere..
posted by: streever on November 11, 2011 9:11am
Exactly! People buy homes with a certain expectation of what neighborhood they are buying into. That is one of the few things zoning should do really well.
Sadly, in New Haven, zoning is a nightmare, and not one that the city has any intention of cleaning up soon.
It is absolutely reasonable to be concerned with such an uncharacteristic use next door—if one buys a home in a quiet residential neighborhood one should have a reasonable expectation that new development will appear similar to what currently exists.