NAUGATUCK — After months of public hearings, the Zoning Commission last week backed plans for a private Jewish high school and housing to be built on May Street.
Yeshivas Ohr HaChaim, a Waterbury-based Jewish community, plans to build an all-boys Jewish high school along with housing on a 56-acre parcel at 874 May St. The plans include two dorms, a gymnasium and 86 housing units that will be a combination of two-family townhouses and single-family homes. The school will be associated with the New York City-based Touro College and University System.
On March 22, the commission unanimously approved the site development plan and changing the zone of the land from residential to a planned design district, which would allow the school and housing to be built on the same parcel.
The commission’s approval came with nine conditions, including no inorganic fertilizers, pesticides, or insecticides can be used; 30 days notice must be given to neighbors before water and sewer lines are built; and a pre-blast survey of wells and foundations in the area must be done before blasting, if any, occurs on the land.
According to Town Planner and Zoning Enforcement Officer Sue Goggin, the plans have already received necessary approvals from other land use boards and borough commissions. The Zoning Commission’s approval was the last one needed before the project could move forward.
Rabbi Moshe Krupka, executive vice president of Touro College and University System, said the next step is to get all the plans in order. He wasn’t sure when construction would begin.
The project will be broken into seven phases, starting with the construction of the school and the dorms, according to Brian Baker, director of engineering for Civil 1. Each phase will be completed before the next one starts, he added.
“It’s a well thought out plan. It will be done in a methodical manner. We are not going to be working on the school in phase one and trying to build a home in phase six at the end of a cul-de-sac that doesn’t exist,” Baker said.
Zoning Commission Chairman William Stopper asked what would happen if someone wanted to purchase plots for homes on parcel that wasn’t in development yet.
Baker said the person would be allowed to buy them, but construction wouldn’t occur until amenities, such as a road, were installed on that parcel.
“They can buy them, but if they don’t have a road they can’t build on them,” Baker said.
Residents and neighbors have raised concerns throughout the public hearing process, including how the project would impact traffic in the area.
A traffic study completed by Sharat Kalluri, senior transportation engineer for the East Hartford-based CDM Smith, Inc., concluded the project would have a minimal impact on the intersections of May Street and Osborne Road and May Street and Maple Hill Road, and have no impact on adjacent roadways.
Additional concerns were raised last week about how a development this size would fit into the neighborhood
“Some of the sections we have in Naugatuck are beautiful. They are private. We have wooded lots. We can sit on our back decks at night and have our own space,” resident Clista Michalek said. “If this development goes through that’s gone.”
Michalek was also worried about what would happen to the wildlife living in the area.
“That is the one thing that is consistently overlooked when we make these developments,” Michalek said. “I have been watching the wildlife in this area for a long time. Wildlife issues are human-created.”
Baker said keeping the parcel from being developed was not a realistic idea.
“Would it be great if not another piece of property in town was developed? Some people would like that, but that’s not the way the world works. If you own private property you have the right to develop it,” Baker said.
Baker pointed out the development plans include parks and undeveloped forest areas.
Janice Smegelski said significant blasting was required when her house, which she has lived in for over 50 years, was built. Even though the well and foundation testing prior to any blasting was part of the conditions of approval, she was worried about whether the requirements would be on the record.
“Are we as neighbors going to be able to see what these conditions are? Are we going to be able to know we are protected somehow,” Smegelski said.
Stopper said the plans, approval, and conditions are kept in the land use office. Any resident is able to access them, he said.
Krupka said the community has no intentions of being bad neighbors.
“We want to continue the great legacy and character of the community. I came out of the last meeting hearing from some of our potential new neighbors about the 50 plus years that they spent in this beautiful borough and beautiful community. Although we haven’t gone to market we have had discussions with potential families that are looking for a wholesome community to put down roots and to spend 50 plus years raising their families,” Krupka said.