Zoning OKs apartments on Terrace Avenue

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The Naugatuck Zoning Commission approved a special permit March 21 to renovate this former group home at 56 Terrace Ave. into a nine-unit apartment building. –FILE PHOTO

NAUGATUCK — The Zoning Commission approved a special permit to turn the house at 56 Terrace Ave. into an apartment building.

The commission heard from the house’s prospective owner Doug Columb and his attorney Kevin McSherry along with concerned residents at a public hearing on March 21.

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 application changed since the last time it came before the commission. Previously, Columb planned to have 11 separate apartments in the house.

Now, it is slated to only house nine units and one office. The layout of the building would include one apartment on the third floor, four on the second floor, three units and an office on the first floor and one unit in the basement. Each unit will be 400 square feet or larger.

Columb explained that the reduction of two units doesn’t mean that much more space to each of the remaining units.

“I know you’re all thinking the units are getting larger, but they’re only gaining closet space,” Columb said.

The other change included the addition of the 300-square-foot office on the first floor. The original placement for the office was to have been in the basement. However, because the basement is uninhabitable at this time, the office was moved to the first floor.

Resident Wendy Murphy, who lives on Terrace Avenue, was concerned what the office would be used for. She felt that if the office was rented out, it could create more traffic on the street.

McSherry told the commission that the office was only for in-house use and there were no plans to rent it out. He explained that there were always plans to have an onsite presence in the building. Having an office in the building was better than some of the alternatives.

“The other component is, this is a good thing for the neighborhood, we won’t have to bring a trailer in, that will be a work office. There will be a work office right inside the building,” McSherry said.

In February, neighbors raised concerns about the apartments would have on parking and traffic in the neighborhood. The building is expected to 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.

Columb felt that lowering the number of apartments by two would address the parking issues.

Resident Evona Gilday raised concerns about the standards of living in the proposed apartments. She asked the commission if there were any regulations that stated a certain number of square feet per occupant.

The commission was unaware of any regulation that dictated the size of dwellings per number of occupants.

Gilday did not feel that allowing apartments to be built on Terrace Avenue would add to the character of Naugatuck.

“I would see it as a tragic thing for Naugatuck to take some of the properties that are unique to this town … and turn them into a very, very cheesy, for lack of a better word, commercial zone,” Gilday said.

Gilday was concerned that the building would be alongside some large, historic single family homes.

“Believe it or not, there are still people who are willing to preserve this (area),” Gilday said.

Commission Chair Joe Savarese said there are a lot of historic properties in Naugatuck that are in decay because no one has the money to fix them up. He said that the commission had to look at what was best for the town, the neighbors, the developer, and the people who would reside in the proposed apartments.

“If the project is done correctly … I think this would be more of an asset to the town of Naugatuck than an old building with the siding falling off of it,” Savarese said.