Design discussions continue

Zoning Commission not ready yet to OK Parcel C project

NAUGATUCK — Progress on the development of Parcel C has stalled a bit due to concerns over keeping with the historic look of downtown Naugatuck.

Developers Rob Oris and John Lombard are planning to build a 30,000-sqaure-foot building and a 5,100-square-foot building on the vacant parcel at the corner of Maple and Water streets.

The larger three-story building will be a medical office complex and a bank. St. Mary’s Hospital has committed to filling much of the complex. The plans show Starbucks Coffee taking about 2,000 square feet of the smaller building, with the rest being filled by a sit-down restaurant or retail.

In March, Oris and Lombard brought their plans before the Zoning Commission for a public hearing. The hearing remains open as discussions have focused on what materials will be used for the exterior of the buildings. The commission’s next meeting is May 18.

Oris and Lombard have proposed using stucco on the exterior of the buildings, similar to what can be found on the buildings at the Mountview Plaza on Rubber Avenue.

The commission, which also acts as the borough’s architectural review board, has raised concerns that stucco would not fit in with the borough’s historic downtown.

Commission Chairman William Stopper pointed to the Whittemore Library, Hillside Intermediate School, Salem Elementary School, and St. Francis Church as examples of the borough’s historical buildings downtown.

“Most of the buildings around here are historical in nature. Since this is the landmark for Parcels A and B, our opinion is the trend should be keeping it more historical,” Stopper said.

Stopper said the commission would like to see the developers use bricks on the first two floors of the medical building and along the restaurant. He said the bricks would only have to be used on the sides of the buildings that face Water and Maple streets.

“When you come across the [Whittemore Bridge] into Naugatuck, this is going to be the first thing you see,” Stopper said.

The commission also took issue with the color of the stucco Oris and Lombard proposed for the buildings.

According to architectural drawings, the buildings would be constructed out of a yellow stucco and the medical building would have a garnet stripe near the top.

Stopper said the commission would like Oris and Lombard to use a grey stucco to match the Whittemore Library.

“We certainly don’t want to discourage development but we want to make it fit in with the area,” Stopper said.

Oris did not return a message seeking comment.

Lombard and Oris have previously said they will consider the commission’s requests. Oris previously told the board that the addition of brick would cost too much to make the project viable.

Members of the Board of Mayor and Burgesses voiced concerns at its meeting last week about the impact requiring brick could have on the project.

“It was quite clear to me that the developer was not inclined to do brick,” Burgess Kathleen Donovan said. “Anybody that is in support of the project I strongly suggest you go to the May 18 meeting and voice your approval and excitement about the project, because we would not want to see these developers walk away.”

Donovan said she supports the building design as it was originally presented because she felt it would fit into the borough’s downtown nicely and allow the developers to move forward.

Burgess Rocky Vitale said he was frustrated that the process was held up by the commission over the look of the building. Keeping the project in stasis might make these developers give up on this project and scare others away, he said.

“Let’s get this thing moving. Let’s move the town forward,” Vitale said. “If we really want to get going and want to add to our grand list, we have got to make it easier for these builders.”

Stopper said the rest of the boards and commissions have given positive reviews for the project, but the Zoning Commission wants to ensure the building looks like it fits in downtown.

“We have had this role [of architectural review board] for years and we haven’t exercised it before,” Stopper said. “We are being a little more firm on an architectural standpoint for this building.”

Stopper said Naugatuck’s historic past is one of its best aspects.

“That is one of the big things we have going for us. We are no longer a mill town. This is a step in the new direction, to try and keep the historic look of the downtown,” Stopper said.