NAUGATUCK — As the borough moves ahead with a proposal to rezone Prospect Street, residents voiced their concerns about the change at a public hearing.
The borough is working towards creating a special design district along Prospect Street, from the Naugatuck-Prospect border to Route 8, to spur development. The Zoning Commission opened a public hearing on the proposed Prospect Street Corridor Special Design District June 17.
Fitzgerald & Halliday Senior Project Manager Carol Gould, a planning consultant for the borough, said the proposed sale of the former Prospect Street School set off the idea to create a new zone for the street.
“The impetuous for this was a conversation about what would happen with the Prospect Street School and what the opportunities were for reusing it,” Gould said.
Gould said the current zone limits the opportunities a developer has to redevelop the building.
Gould said the borough’s Plan of Conservation and Development recommends rezoning the corridor along Prospect Street, including the school.
The proposed Prospect Street Special Design District would allow property to be used for residences, residential offices, high intensity and high density commercial offices, neighborhood-oriented commercial uses, low intensity commercial uses, and light industrial.
The proposed district would prohibit earth excavation operations and adult entertainment.
Gould said the purpose of the new district is to encourage new development and redevelopment that supports and promotes the formation of a mixed-use commercial and residential environment along Prospect Street. Gould also hopes the district will create a more welcoming environment to encourage redevelopment.
Residents expressed concerns that the new zone would add to the traffic problems already on the street.
Debra Childs, who lives off of Prospect Street, said that during the winter the snow makes entering Prospect Street dangerous because of the traffic.
“If you go out on Lines Hill [Street] you are taking your life into your hands. You can’t make a left without flying into traffic,” Childs said.
Childs said motorists travel too fast along Prospect Street because the speed limit drops from 40 to 25 mph. She was also concerned that increased development would lead to an increase in accidents.
“You’re going to increase all the traffic through there by developing the area,” Childs said. “If you put any business where the school is, you are only going to make traffic worse.”
Paul Degennaro echoed Childs’ concern, saying there is constantly traffic along Prospect Street.
“I got caught in traffic coming here on Route 68. It was backed up. And this was at 6 p.m.,” Degennaro said.
Burgess Rocky Vitale recommended that the board make anyone seeking to develop property along Prospect Street go before the Police Commission to have a traffic study done.
Borough Attorney Ned Fitzpatrick said anyone seeking a special permit already has to have a traffic study completed as part of the approval process. However, he pointed out, that Prospect Street is a state road and the borough can only act as an advisory to the state Department of Transportation.
“The DOT determines what the level of service is,” Fitzpatrick said. “They determine which ways you can go in or go out, which ways are restricted, and which are not. That process would continue going forward unless the State Traffic Administration decides to no longer regulate that, and I doubt they will.”
Traffic wasn’t the only issue residents had with the proposed design district.
James Warren, who owns Capital Quarry Materials at 900 Prospect St., said the zone of his business would change under the new design district. The change, he said, would hinder future growth of his business.
Currently Warren’s property is zoned as PDD11, which allows industrial and excavation work. Under the proposed design district, his gravel and sand excavation business would not be permitted. Since the business currently exists, its use would be allowed to continue. But, the design district would prevent him from expanding his business.
“I’m totally against it because I spent $250,000 over the past seven years to get PDD11 approved,” Warren said.
Gould recommended the commission consider excluding Warren’s property from the zone change.
Prospect Street resident Phoebe Drown expressed concern that the change would impact the conservation of Fulling Mill Brook, which runs close to her house.
“That’s a bad brook. Look how this year it overflowed near the apartments,” Drown said.
No one spoke in favor of the proposed change at the hearing. The process of creating a design district can take several months, and the hearing was continued to the commission’s next meeting on July 15.