After an hours-long public hearing Thursday evening, city lawmakers voted to recommend rezoning 16.2 acres of vacant land along Rt. 34, between Ella T. Grasso Boulevard and Dwight Street.
The Board of Alders joint Community Development-Legislation Committee made the vote in City Hall’s Aldermanic Chamber. The matter now heads to the full board for a final vote. It has already passed though the Board of Zoning Appeals and the City Plan Commission.
The zone change would pave the way for a proposed 5.39 acre development at 243 Legion Ave., including an $11 million new home for the not-for-profit organization Continuum of Care. It envisions a mix of commercial uses in that first megablock, then more of a residential mix on the blocks leading to Ella Grasso Boulevard.
The plan has proved controversial because of the plan for the first, commercial-heavy block. Critics say the city should have put the property out to bid and that the proposed use amounts to a suburban-style, car-centric “business park,” not a walkable, mixed-use neighborhood.
Supporters of the plan say it will help fix a mistake made decades ago, when the city razed several blocks in the name of urban renewal. They say the new development will increase the tax base and re-connect neighborhoods long divided by a scar of vacant land.
Newhallville/Prospect Hill Alder Mike Stratton was the lone dissenting voice in a 6-1 vote Thursday evening. He said he was convinced by public testimony from people worried that the proposed development would not be right for the neighborhood.
“It was clear to me that people from the Hill and people in the Dwight neighborhood did not want this zoning change,” Stratton said. He said the zone change would allow “a continuation of the sprawl” of offices and garages on Rt. 34.