Busy Planning Season In Branford

Photo by Diana StrickerIt will be a busy season for town commissions as several projects come to the forefront in the next few weeks, including the proposed 10-year plan; the town’s potential purchase of a Tabor Drive property; and various residential proposals.

• The Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD)  Steering Committee will meet Thursday to finalize the draft of the 10-year plan before sending it to Planning and Zoning (P&Z)  Commission for final approval.

• The Representative Town Meeting (RTM) will discuss spending up to $250,000 to purchase a 14-acre property on Tabor Drive that could be used as open space. The meeting is 8 p.m. Wednesday at Fire Headquarters.

• And a number of residential proposals will be on the P&Z agendas during the next few meetings, including the Sterling Ridge development across from the Canoe Brook Senior Center; and two separate proposals for properties near The Connecticut Hospice on Double Beach Road.

Also, the P&Z has scheduled a public hearing Oct. 4 for a proposal to open a restaurant at the Thimble Island Brewing Company at 16 Business Park Drive on Branford’s east side. The brewery was founded in 2012 by Justin Gargano and Mike Fawcett.

Branford’s Goals in the Next Decade

The POCD’s steering committee will meet Thursday (Sept. 13) from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Fire Headquarters to hold what could be the last discussion of the proposed draft.

There will be an opportunity for public comment at the beginning of the meeting. Chuck Andres, who chairs the P&Z, said last week that the commissioners will schedule a public hearing after they receive the revised draft.

The committee has been meeting monthly since last October, under the guidance of consultant Glenn Chalder of Planimetrics, headquartered in Avon.

A POCD public workshop in November attracted about 220 people who chose coastal issues as the number-one area of concern, particularly the impact of rising seas and frequent storms.

A proposed draft of the POCD was introduced in June, and people raised questions about the town’s ability to implement the POCD’s suggestions.

Over the summer, revisions were made to the draft and some residents complained there was not enough emphasis placed on the development part of the POCD.

Important aspects of the proposed plan include addressing coastal vulnerability, improving the Exit 53 interchange, improving bicycle and pedestrian access, promoting transit‐oriented development, supporting economic development and tourism, protecting natural resources and open space, and promoting sustainability.

The state requires communities to update their POCD every 10 years. The document is advisory unless the P&Z ties recommendations to zoning regulations.

Purchasing Tabor Road Property?

A 14.5-acre property along Tabor Drive has caught the attention of First Selectman Jamie Cosgrove.

From Branford GISIn October 2017, the P&Z made a positive referral to the RTM regarding the proposed purchase of the Zuwalick property. At that time, Cosgrove told the P&Z that it would be beneficial to the town to own the property, and that the owner had expressed interest in selling the property to the town.

The RTM’s Administrative Services Committee discussed the proposal and voted unanimously in favor during their recent meeting. The funding and potential acquisition is slated to come before the full RTM at Wednesday’s meeting. 

The Board of Finance (BOF) approved the $250,000 funding in late August.  The motion was approved by a 3-1 vote with Lorraine Young voting no, and Chairman Joe Mooney recusing himself.

Bill Horne, chair of the town’s Select Committee on Open Space Acquisition (SCOSA), wrote a letter regarding the Zuwalick property, which was read at the BOF meeting. Horne said the committee previously identified the property as having potential value as open space since it is undeveloped property and is near other protected open space. The site is adjacent to more than 130 acres of continuous open space owned by the town and Land Trust.

SCOSA recommended the town acquire the property. Horne said acquiring the undeveloped property as protected open space would provide a buffer to the adjacent town-owned Ecology Park and would also create a buffer area between the old landfill and current residential development to the north and west.

The property is zoned residential R-3. A portion of the land is in a FEMA flood zone.

The property was one of seven sites initially identified as potential locations for a new public works building in 2011. The nearby 77-acre town-owned Tabor Drive property was subsequently chosen for public works, but that site was later rejected, and the project never materialized.

In 2016, informal plans were presented to the P&Z to create a Planned Development District (PDD) on the Zuwalick property. The preliminary proposal by Kevin O’Neill, president of Cherry Hill Glass Co. on Elm Street, would have changed the zoning to a mix of institutional, commercial and light industrial uses. The commission expressed concerns about the proposal, and a formal application was never made.

Potential Residential Projects

• The long-proposed Sterling Ridge housing project is ready to take another step toward reality. The developer has submitted site plans to the P&Z, but they must first be reviewed by the Town Center Revitalization and Review Board. The P&Z approved revisions to the Planned Development District (PDD) in July.

The Sterling Ridge proposal is in the heart of Branford, across from Canoe Brook Senior Center and adjacent to the historic Harrison House on Main Street. The neighborhood is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

• Frank Vigliotti of Vigliotti Construction Co. has submitted a subdivision and coastal site plan for property at 191 Short Beach Road. The proposal is currently before the Inland Wetlands Commission (IWC) and is slated for continued discussion Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the Canoe Brook Senior Center. If approved by IWC, the proposal will go to the P&Z.

The Short Beach Road property, currently owned by the corporation that owns The Connecticut Hospice, is 3.6 acres and is zoned residential R-4.  Vigliotti is proposing to subdivide the property to create a three-lot open-space subdivision, which means there would be three housing lots and an open space area.

• Robert J. Caldarella, president of the Sunrise Cove Association Inc., attended Thursday’s P&Z meeting to request a lot line revision that would create three lots out of four small vacant lots at 26, 30, 34-A, and 34 Double Beach Road. Caldarella and his Sunrise Cove Partners LLC corporation purchased the properties from The Connecticut Hospice corporation in July. The lots are zoned residential R-2.

The P&Z commissioners discussed the proposal and will continue discussions at the next meeting, which is scheduled Sept. 20 at 8 p.m. at Fire Headquarters.

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