Beacon Falls P&Z opens hearings on proposed housing development

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By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

Manuel Silva, a civil engineer, presents plans for the proposed Hopp Brook Village housing development during a hearing Aug. 26 at the firehouse in Beacon Falls. –ANDREAS YILMA

BEACON FALLS — A Shelton-based developer is back before the Planning and Zoning Commission with a housing development proposal extremely similar to a plan the commission denied earlier this year.

Hopp Brook Developers, LLC, is seeking to build 109 three-bedroom homes on a 135-acre parcel of undeveloped land the developers own off Oakwood Drive near the Bethany border. The firm has applied for a text amendment to create a “Hopp Brook Village District” section in the zoning regulations. The developer also applied for a zone change from Residential 1 to “Hopp Brook Village District.”

In February, the commission unanimously denied an application for a zone change for the project, which was strongly opposed by the public. This application was to amend a legal notice from 2017, when the then-Planning and Zoning Commission approved changing the zone but the notice announcing the change incorrectly stated the area for the change. The application was denied without prejudice, meaning Hopp Brook Developers could reapply.

The commission opened hearings on the new applications Aug. 26 at the firehouse.

Stephen Bellis, a lawyer with The Pellegrino Law Firm and a principal with Hopp Brook Developers, said the new proposal sets aside 30% of the homes for affordable housing. The houses set aside will be for people who earn 80% or 60% of the median income in the surrounding area.

Bellis said there is a stigma with projects that include affordable housing, but noted this proposal is not a low-income project.

“This is a set-aside project,” he said. “All the houses have to be the same.”

The ranch-style, owner-occupied homes would each sit on nearly 2 acres of land and have a two-car garage, under the proposal. There would amenities, like a swimming pool and recreational field, a 250,000-gallon water tank and seven septic systems in the development. The roads and amenities and would be private and maintained by a homeowner’s association. The plan designates 40 acres for open space.

The plan calls for seven phases of construction with about 16 homes built in each phase. Each phase would take about two years, Bellis said. The first phase would start by Oakwood Drive, and homes would be built as they are sold, according to the plan.

Bellis estimated the houses would sell for about $400,000 and the development would generate over $1 million in tax revenue when finished.

A home valued at $400,000 generates about $9,700 in taxes based the town’s 2021-22 tax rate of 34.9 mills.

“I don’t see any downside to this project,” Bellis said.

Not everyone agreed with that sentiment at the hearing, which drew about three dozen residents.

Residents voiced concerns that the project would increase the town’s education costs if families with school-aged children move in, cause a nuisance if blasting is needed, and increase traffic in the area. Some also expressed concerns about the affordable housing aspect of the project.

Kermit Hua, a traffic engineer and owner of KWH Enterprise, LLC, said a study showed traffic in the area is limited and the proposal would be a low-traffic generator.

“The total number of the trips on those streets are only about half of the traffic capacity of the roadways,” said Hua, who is working with Hopp Brook Developers.

Bellis said student enrollment is declining in town and argued that if the development brought in more students it wouldn’t get impact the town’s costs.

Stephen Bellis, an attorney and a principal with Hopp Brook Developers, presents plans for the proposed Hopp Brook Village housing development during a hearing Aug. 26 at the firehouse in Beacon Falls. –ANDREAS YILMA

James Carroll, who lives on Fieldstone Lane and is a member of the Board of Finance, said that is not the case.

“We are part of a regional school system,” Carroll said. “So, therefore our education costs are based on our percentage of students that total the percentage of the school system.”

Adam Kelly, who lives on Oakwood Drive, said the area is far away from the firehouse and that hinders the response time by firefighters. He said there should be added safety measures in place during construction.

“We shouldn’t start construction until there is a (water) tank in the ground,” Kelly said.

Chairman Donald Molleur said commission members have a lot to digest from the hearing. The commission continued the hearing to Sept. 29 at 7 p.m.

Bellis said the project could be approved without the text amendment, but it would allow the project to conform with regulations — if the new section is approved — when the firm seeks financing.

The proposal has received approval from the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission.

Bellis has appealed the decision made by the commission in February in Superior Court. The appeal is moving ahead simultaneously with the pending applications.