By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News
BEACON FALLS — The Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday denied a zone change application for the proposed Hopp Brook Estates housing development project for the second time this year.
The PZC unanimously approved the developer’s application for a zoning text amendment with modifications, but later unanimously denied the zone change in a special meeting that drew out about a half dozen residents.
Hopp Brook Developers, which is based in Shelton, is seeking to build 109 three-bedroom homes on a 135-acre parcel of undeveloped land off Oakwood Drive near the Bethany border. The proposal sets aside 30% of the homes for people who earn 80% or 60% of the median income in the surrounding area. The firm has applied for a text amendment to change the zone from Residential 1 to “Hopp Brook Village District.”
“There was never enough information supplied to the commission to make this project work. We have a lot of questions that were unanswered,” PZC Chairman Donald Molleur said after the meeting. “We asked for an extension at the last hearing so the applicant could have time to get the information to us, was denied, so we had to move forward with what we have.”
The PZC closed the hearings Sept. 30 after Stephen Bellis, a lawyer with Pellegrino Law Firm and a principal with Hopp Brook Developers, denied the commission’s request to extend the hearings to review more information.
The PZC previously requested Bellis grant an extension for the hearings and submit additional information, including a letter of intent or design from Aquarion Water Co. for the proposed 250,000-gallon water tank, and an outline of the watershed area where the proposed septic systems would be installed.
Bellis has two options following the application denial. He said he can either submit a modification for the zone change and the text amendment and come back before the commission or file an appeal in court.
“I still remain optimistic I can try to work something out with the town of Beacon Falls on this project,” Bellis said after the meeting. “My goal is not to just run to court and try to cram something down their throats.”
The ranch-style, owner-occupied homes each would sit on nearly 2 acres and have a two-car garage. There would amenities, such as a swimming pool and recreational field, as well as the water tank and seven septic systems in the development. The roads and amenities would be private and maintained by a homeowners association. The plan designates 40 acres for open space.
The PZC approved the text amendment with several modifications, including a written approval of design and location of the proposed septic systems from Naugatuck Valley Health District or the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection; and a written agreement between Aquarion and the applicant for construction of the proposed water tank that includes design standards and specifications.
The project has faced strong opposition from residents, who spoke at nearly every hearing.
PZC Vice Chairman Michael Rupsis and member Michael Pratt said they were worried about the road being wide enough for fire safety and parking, and having water for fires.
“I’m a fireman here in town so that’s a big concern of mine,” Rupsis said.
Pratt, also a firefighter, added, “There’s really nothing set that says exactly when the water tank is going to be done; if it’s definitely going to be done. I know there’s some stuff that said Aquarion said they were going to do it, but there’s physically nowhere that’s in writing saying this is the size tank that is going to be there, this is the projected fire protection you’re going to get.”
On Wednesday, commissioners did not have any discussions before voting against the zone change.
“I wanted to hear the reasons the commissioners denied the zone change. … They didn’t say anything,” Bellis said.
He noted Vincent Marino, an attorney who represents the town on land-use issues, gave Bellis two draft resolutions for the text amendment and the zone change at the meeting.
In February, the PZC unanimously denied the first application for a zone change. Bellis has appealed that decision in Superior Court. Opening arguments begin Dec. 13 and the judge will have 120 days from that date to make a decision. Bellis said he will have to prove the town has done something illegal.
Bellis said he has 15 days to make a decision from the date of the latest denial and is leaning toward another appeal.
“More likely than not, I’m going to have to appeal it,” he said.