Hearing on proposed school opens

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Brian Baker, director of engineering for Civil 1, presents plans for a private high school campus and housing on May Street in Naugatuck to the Zoning Commission during a public hearing on Jan. 18. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — Plans to build a private high school campus and housing on May Street drew questions and concerns from residents.

Yeshivas Ohr HaChaim, a Waterbury-based Jewish community, submitted plans to build a private Jewish high school at 874 May St. in October. The plans for the 56-acre property include two dorms and 86 housing units that will be a combination of two-family townhouses and single-family homes to be built along with the school. The school will be associated with the New York City-based Touro College and University System.

The project requires 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 Zoning Commission opened the public hearing on the requested zone change last week.

Brian Baker, director of engineering for Civil 1, told the commission the project would be broken into seven year-long phases due to its size. Civil 1 is working with Yeshivas Ohr HaChaim on the project.

The first phase will include the school building, dorms, and gym, he said. Three townhouses and a road to cross the wetlands toward the residential side of the development would comprise phases two and three, respectively.

The school, which is expected to serve about 100 students, would initially bus all of its students in, Baker said. Once the dorms are constructed, it is expected that 50 students will live on site.

Diana Raczkowski, whose property borders the proposed development site, said she had no problem with building the school, but had concerns about the housing. She pointed out that most of the houses along May Street have nearly an acre of land.

“This is quite a bit of clustering of housing,” Raczkowski said. “I think it is a little too much for the character of the neighborhood. One of the qualifying standards is that this development won’t detract from the character and value of adjoining properties.”

Raczkowski also had a concern about the buffer between bordering properties and the development.

Baker said the proposed houses would be set back 50 feet from property lines with a natural wooded buffer between the properties.

Raczkowski said she wanted it in writing that there would be a natural buffer that is not allowed to be cut down.

“It should be like a conservation easement where you can’t touch it and it remains a buffer area. If you cut everything there is no buffer anymore,” Raczkowski said.

Janice Smegelski-O’Meara, whose property borders the development where the proposed houses will be constructed, questioned how the trees would be removed since the project could take up to seven years to complete.

“Are they going to take the trees down only as each phase is done or will they clear the whole property? Because that would mean a huge difficulty in erosion and water runoff for all of us that are bordering the development,” Smegelski-O’Meara said.

These plans show a private high school and campus and housing proposed to build at 874 May St. in Naugatuck. –CONTRIBUTED

Baker said they are allowed to take down trees prior to moving onto another phase, but not remove the stumps until a specific phase begins. It’s not the cutting of the trees that results in erosion, he said, but rather when the stump is removed.

“I don’t imagine, with this amount of property, they are going to clear the entire thing at once. They will probably clear a couple phases at a time. They can only pull the stumps and do construction on one 5 acre area at a time,” Baker said.

Water and sewer lines will be run to the school and all the properties, Baker said.

May Street resident Janet Rippel asked if that meant residents would have to tie into the water line.

“Most of us have wells. Are we going to be required to tie into that,” Rippel asked.

Town Planner and Zoning Enforcement Officer Sue Goggin said residents would have the opportunity to tie into the line, but would not be forced to do so.

Rippel also voiced concerns about what the future may hold for the project.

“Seven years down the road if this comes to fruition and it is popular, what are the options if they want more residential homes,” Rippel asked.

Since the project requires a special permit, Goggin said any additional homes or changes to the plan would require the developer to come before the commission to request a change.

“Whatever plan is approved, that is what they would have to build,” Goggin said.

The commission continued the public hearing to its Feb. 15 meeting. A representative from the Yeshivas Ohr HaChaim community is expected to be at that meeting.