Neighbors express concerns over proposed apartment unit

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A proposal is before the Naugatuck Zoning Commission to renovate a former group home at 56 Terrace Ave. into an 11-unit apartment. –LARAINE WESCHLER

NAUGATUCK — Neighbors of a proposed apartment complex are worried that the planned 11-unit building will make it harder to find parking in the neighborhood.

The building at 56 Terrace Ave. was formally a convalescent home in the 1940s, and became a group home in 1948, both non-conforming uses in a residential zone.

The building will have 25 parking spaces, but 14 of those spaces are shared with the apartment building at 42 Terrace Ave. as part of an easement with the building’s owner. Between the two buildings, there are 16 units and 31 spaces.

Attorney Kevin McSherry, who is representing the perspective buyers of 56 Terrace Ave., Douglas and Margaret Columb, said the parking should be sufficient for the small efficiency and one bedroom units.

Each unit will not house more than two people, Douglas Columb said during a public hearing on the proposal Feb. 15.

Naugatuck regulations for that zone require three spaces per unit, but since the building is already non-conforming, the Zoning Commission doesn’t have to have to insist on that number.

Despite Columb’s assurances that the parking will be sufficient, neighbors on the street said it is already difficult to find parking in the area, and that there is already extra traffic on the road from people trying to get to Hillside Intermediate School without driving up the deteriorating Hillside Avenue.

Thomas Ramos, of 22 Terrace Ave., said traffic in the historic district would make the quiet street busier.

“I think 11 apartments, which at a minimum would be 22 more cars, is a little overkill,” Ramos said.

Ramos said he would prefer a scaled-back plan with fewer units in the building.

Wendy Murphy, of 32 Terrace Ave., agreed that 11 units would be too many on the narrow street that has no streetlights on one end.

“With Hillside as bumpy as it is, we have had an increase in traffic,” Murphy said.

Evona Gilday, of195 Hillside Ave., whose property abuts the building, said she was also concerned with the high density of the building.

“You take a home of that size, turn the entire property into one big parking lot, what quality of life will these people have? They’re going to come in. They’re going to come out. …Unfortunately, I truly believe that the values of the surrounding properties will be driven down,” Gilday said.

Douglas Columb said the apartments would fit the character of the neighborhood better than the group home. Since no one would be able to afford to buy the building as a single family home or tear it down, if it doesn’t hold apartment units, it will likely sit empty, he said.

“This is a kind of historic, quiet, shady, squirrels running around it kind of neighborhood. … We don’t want to make it any noisier than it is,” Douglas Columb said.

He said the outside of the building wouldn’t change much, but he would create more green space where the driveway is currently.
Zoning Chair Joseph Saverese said he would refer traffic concerns to the Police Commission, which met earlier this week.

The commission agreed to do a site walk on the property March 14 at 4 p.m. The hearing was continued to March 21 at 6 p.m. in Town Hall.