Zoning amendment not quite what developers had in mind

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NAUGATUCK — The Zoning Commission approved a text change to the borough’s regulations, paving the way for developers who hope to build a 55-plus community on the former Wilmot Farm property.

Even though the commission passed the text change, some of the modifications are detrimental to the developers’ plans, according to their lawyer, Matt Woermer.

He said the stipulations for how close the units could be and the setbacks from the roads would make it difficult to create a successful adult community.

“We’re a little perplexed by the distance between the units,” Woermer said.

Woermer said the developers, Luigi D’Arcangelo of Brookfield and Anthony Petrillo of Oxford, were trying to build a community where people are near each other.

“When you spread an active adult community apart too far, it tends to be negative, and kind of like a subdivision, which isn’t what an active adult community is,” Woermer said.

He said the developers may be forced to go forward with a residential development instead of a 55-plus community because of the changes.

“We’re trying to do a cost-benefit analysis between the two types of projects,” Woermer said.

The Wilmot Farm property used to be in a R-35 zone, which would have allowed a 55-plus community. Last year, the Zoning Commission changed the zone to R-65, which didn’t allow for age-restricted housing.

The Zoning Commission approved a text change to the zoning regulations to allow senior housing in residential zones R-65 and R-45 during a special meeting in late June. The text change passed 3-2, with Chair Joe Savarese and Vice Chair Diana Raczkowski casting the dissenting votes.

When the commission first changed those zoning regulations, they didn’t have any criteria set up for setbacks, according to Savarese. He said the commission had a lengthy debate over the new technical specifications and regulations.

Ultimately, the commission approved the change to allow for senior housing, but the change comes with stipulations, including the setbacks and close units can be together.

The area is now zoned for low impact housing, with larger lots and fewer houses that would put less strain on the borough’s sewers, water and other infrastructure.

The regulations were written to follow state and Council of Government recommendations for development, but made no provisions for age-restricted housing, Savarese said.

Savarese said he was personally against the text change because age-restricted housing is not selling right now.
“I just don’t think at this point we can make a clear call or predict what’s going to happen in the future,” Savarese said.

He said only 15 percent of units in the borough’s three age-restricted communities have sold in the past six years.
Zoning Commission alternate Sally Brouillet argued for the text change during the commission’s meeting.

“In order for Naugatuck to grow in a positive, well-rounded direction it must have what other successful towns have; a beneficial balance of industrial, commercial and residential properties supported by a healthy tax base,” Brouillet said.

She argued that the senior housing would be low impact and well landscaped. She said it would bring more business to Naugatuck and bring in more taxes without burdening the system. She said adult communities are usually quiet, peaceful and crime free.

Any new development would have to be upscale, with amenities like pools and tennis courts to attract a different clientele, Savarese said.

The planned project would offer two-bedroom units for between $249,000 and $269,000, Woermer said. He projected the community would bring in about half a million dollars in tax revenue for the town while requiring minimal government services.

The age restricted community would be self sufficient, with its own water, road maintenance, trash pickup, snow plowing and other facilities. It would not put an additional burden on the school system since school-age children wouldn’t live there.

“It’s actually a great deal for the borough of Naugatuck, tax-wise,” Woermer said.

Savarese said that current Naugatuck residents would not be likely to move into such an area.

Any application for age restricted housing under the amended regulations would have to file for a special permit and meet about eight pages of conditions, Savarese said.

“There’s a lot of variables in there,” he said.

Those against the text change argued that Naugatuck doesn’t need another 55 and older community, which it already has in several other zones. They said seniors would have to drive outside their community to reach area attractions and would feel isolated from the rest of Naugatuck.

Woermer said he pointed out that Naugatuck has a dense downtown without enough land to create luxurious community with a clubhouse and pool. The proposed location is a mile from the Oxford greens.

“I think there’s no question that we would attract people from throughout the state because Naugatuck has a lower cost of living, it’s very close to community centers, and it has access to the rail and Route 8,” Woermer said.
He said it would be an upscale community without the high price tag of similar communities in Oxford and Middlebury.

“I don’t see why people … don’t find [Naugatuck] a beautiful place with a lot of attractive attributes,” Woermer said. “We were very fortunate that Commissioner [Richard] Cool, Commissioner [Neil] Mascola, and Commissioner [Sally] Brouillet held on against an aggressive attack by the chairman and vice-chairman to vote to change the zone.”