The Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission unanimously approved changes to the proposed Sterling Ridge housing plan Thursday, but only after the developers reached agreements with neighbors including the Branford Historical Society.
“They’ve done well, working with the neighbors,” said P&Z chair Chuck Andres (center).
The proposed Sterling Ridge Planned Development District (PDD) 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.
In other business earlier in July, the commission unanimously approved two retail businesses at 250 N. Main St. The commissioners also voted 4-1 to allow the owners of the Exit 56 PDD another year to submit site plans.
Sterling Ridge Approved, Again
The developers were seeking modifications to a PDD and Master Plan that were approved about a year ago.
Plans called for construction of four two-unit buildings on a 3.45-acre lot at 26 Cherry Hill Road. The plans also include renovation of an existing house, known as the McCabe House, on the northern end of the property.
Attorney Bernard Pellegrino, of the Pellegrino Law Firm in New Haven, who represents the developer, said he agrees with provisions in the staff report and the commission’s resolution. He hopes to submit final site plans soon.
There was no public comment on the project Thursday.
Pellegrino discussed the proposed changes to the Master Plan during a public hearing earlier this month. He submitted deed restrictions that were written after meetings with attorneys representing neighbors Ann Trapasso and the Branford Historical Society. The plans approved last year also included input from the attorneys for the Historical Society and Trapasso.
Some of the restrictions in the new agreement are:
• A designated easement area shall be preserved in its natural condition forever.
• The proposed buildings on Lot 1 shall comply with various architectural design agreements.
• The Craftsman style house, known as the McCabe House, on Lot 2 will be subject to an easement that limits development; and any repairs or replacement of the house shall comply with P&Z approvals and the federal requirements for historic properties.
The Sterling Ridge proposal has gone through various re-incarnations and several owners in the past 15 years. The initial proposal in 2003 called for construction of condominiums in four buildings, and the demolition of the 1820 Wyllys Russell House at 162 Main St., and the 1928 McCabe House.
Martha Bradshaw and Ann Trapasso, both members of the Branford Historical Society, spearheaded a successful campaign in 2003 to save the Russell House.
A development plan for the property and the McCabe House was approved in 2005, but an appeal was filed by the Branford Historical Society and by Trapasso, who lives adjacent to the Sterling Ridge site. A court settlement agreement was reached and the P&Z approved the modified plans in 2007.
That development never materialized, and the property changed owners a couple times before Alan Genn of Greenwich purchased the property for $500,000 in 2014 through his 26 Cherry Hill LLC corporation. Genn and his corporation are proposing the current development.
Retail Approved for North Main Street
Earlier in July, the P&Z unanimously approved a plan to construct two retail buildings at 250 N. Main St. The prospective retailers were not named during the public hearings. However, the retail tenants must be identified when plans are submitted for building and architectural designs.
The 13-acre property is adjacent to the W.S. Clancy Memorial Funeral Home on one side; and United Tire Inc. and Greystone Manor condominiums on the other side. Property owners Jeff Shapiro and family, who operate the Cedar Island Marina in Clinton, have been attempting to develop the North Main property since they purchased it in 1997. They have made various applications to the Inland Wetlands Commission (IWC) and P&Z with projects that have downsized over the years. The property contains numerous wetlands and rock outcroppings.
The current plans call for two buildings, one would be about 61,000 square feet; and the other would be 13,200 square feet. As part of the project, a traffic light would be installed at the entrance to the site.
Some concerns addressed during the hearings were the number of rock cuts and the size of the proposed buildings.
The developer agreed to reduce the proposed maximum height of the rock cuts; to eliminate some parking spaces, and to reduce the largest building by about 1,000 square feet.
More Time for Exit 56
The commission also approved a time-extension request from the property owners at the Exit 56 Planned Development District (PDD), which once included Costco. The vote was 4-1, with commissioner John Lust voting no.
There is a time limit on how long developers have to submit and get approval for site plans for a PDD. The recent ruling grants a one-year extension. There is a possibility of another one-year extension, but the final deadline for site-plan approval for the Exit 56 PDD would be July 2020.
When the commission asked about the chance of Costco returning, attorney Diane Whitney of Pullman & Comley LLC of Hartford, did not rule out the possibility. Whitney represents property owners Al Secondino and Charles Weber Jr.
The Exit 56 PDD and master plan were approved by P&Z in July 2015. Site plans were then submitted to the IWC where lengthy hearings were held. The project would have eventually gone to P&Z for site-plan consideration if a Wetlands permit had been approved. Costco withdrew its IWC application in April 2016, and later pulled out of the project.
Weber and Secondino own a 16.5-acre parcel at 569 E. Main St. where several retail buildings were proposed. The Costco store would have been built on an adjacent 22.3-acre site at 573 East Main St. owned by Wayne Cooke and the Cooke family corporations.