Redding Zoning Commission
Regular Meeting Minutes
November 11, 2020 – 7:30 p.m.
Present: Matt Lecher, Chairman; Amy Atamian, Secretary; Commissioner Ted Ogonek; Commissioner Bill Whitehead; Alternate Diana Carlino-Coffey; Alternate Gary Miyashiro.
Also Present: Julia Pemberton, First Selectman; Aimee Pardee, Zoning Officer; Walter Czudak (Applicant Agent), Amrat Patel, President, Ridgefield Motor Inn Inc. (Applicant); Anthony Mussachio (Applicant Architect/Agent); Ralph Gallagher P.E. (Applicant Consultant); members of the public.
The Chairman noted that the four full members of the Commission were present and seated; he seated Mr. Miyashiro for the vacant seat on the Commission and called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m.
1. Approval of Regular Meeting Minutes of September 9, 2020.
The Chairman asked about the August meeting minutes that had not been approved pending review of the meeting recording. Ms. Pardee stated that the September minutes could be approved without approval of the August minutes. Mr. Ogonek moved that the September 9, 2020 minutes be approved; Ms. Atamian seconded the motion and it was carried unanimously.
2. Application #20 –06Z: 100 Blackrock Turnpike (Assessor’s Map and Lot # 32-66): Regional School District No. 9, Walter Czudak (agent). Request for a Site Plan Revision to install storage shed at Joel Barlow High School. To receive; set public hearing date.
Mr. Czudak presented the application. He explained that the proposal is to install a 12’ x 16’ shed outside of the gym to hold items including tables, chairs, and a tent purchased for outside, distanced learning. The shed would also be used to store items used by the school’s Garden Club as well as sugar used in the on-site treatment plant.
The Chairman noted that any new building on the school property must be considered at a public hearing. Ms. Atamian moved that the Commission set December 9, 2020 as the date for a public hearing.
Mr. Ogonek seconded the motion and it was carried unanimously.
3. Application #20-07Z: 296 Ethan Allen Highway (Assessor’s Map and Lot #35 – 92): Ridgefield Motor Inn. Alex Patel (Owner); Anthony Mussachio, Mussachio Architects (Agent). Request for Site Plan Approval to demolish existing structures and redevelop property with new “Home2 Suites by Hilton” including 71 guestrooms, manager living quarters, restaurant, and redesigned/expanded parking. To receive.
The Chairman asked for the Applicant or Applicant Agent to review the application with the Commission.
Mr. Mussachio, the project architect, stated that the intent is to remove the existing “Days Inn” building and replace it with a “Hilton Home 2” business with 72 guest rooms. He said that, initially, the new hotel would be built, with an estimated completion date of the end of 2021; an associated restaurant would be constructed at a later date. Mr. Patel clarified that he hoped to start construction of the restaurant as soon as the hotel could be occupied. Mr. Mussachio noted that the project includes a relocation of the water tanks for fire protection, and a new stormwater management system that would maintain the majority of stormwater on site instead of draining it to the Norwalk River.
Ralph Gallagher, P.E., also spoke regarding the stormwater system, which he said was approved by the Redding Conservation Commission.
Mr. Mussachio added that Bradford Pear trees in the planting plan had been replaced with Crabapple trees at the request of the Conservation Commission.
Ms. Atamian asked how many guest rooms are currently in the Day’s Inn; Mr. Mussachio said he would find out that information for the Commission. Ms. Carlino-Coffee asked if there is currently a manager apartment in the Days Inn as proposed for the new hotel; Mr. Mussachio said that there is an owner/manager residence in the current hotel. Ms. Atamian asked about the proposed reduction in curb cuts; Mr. Mussachio stated that the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CT DOT) generally prefers fewer curb cuts. Ms. Pardee noted that the proposed plans would be referred to the CT DOT for comment, further noting that the proposed parking spaces represented an increase from 68 to 146.
Ms. Atamian asked if there had been any communication with the owner of the neighboring property who had, at one point, proposed building a banquet facility. Mr. Patel stated that he has not spoken to the neighbor and is unaware of his plans.
Hearing no further discussion, the Chairman stated that the application materials would be referred out to town consultants and additional discussion would be tabled until the regular meeting of December 9, 2020.
The Chairman asked if the Commissioners had given any thought to a previous discussion regarding apartment regulations and whether the Commission should amend that portion of the regulations that restricts apartment approvals to already existing dwelling. There was a general agreement that the Commission should consider an amendment to Section 5.12 of the Redding Zoning Regulations in this regard. Ms. Pardee agreed to bring a draft amendment to the Commission of December 9, 2020.
5. Future Agenda Items
December 9, 2020.
Application 20-06Z Public Hearing.
Application 20-07Z further discussion.
Discussion of possible amendment to Section 5.12 of the Redding Zoning Regulations.
The Commission noted the presence of First Selectman Julia Pemberton and asked for an update regarding the former Gilbert and Bennett property.
Ms. Pemberton stated that the town’s claim to be eligible to foreclose on the property was affirmed by the Connecticut Supreme Court in September and that the foreclosure itself is being processed by the courts; it has been delayed due to court shutdowns in response to the Covid 19 pandemic. She said that she hopes that a hearing date will be not far in the future a which time the court will set the Law Day. If the taxes are not paid in full by the Law Day, then the property will be foreclosed.
Once that occurs, she said that the property will enter into the Municipal Brownsfield Protection Program, which protects the town from liability, while the town decides the ultimate use for the property.
Ms. Pemberton noted a couple of pieces of the project to be resolved before any development could move forward: previously there had been a grant to complete river walls which would elevate the property out of the flood zone, and also there had been a grant to complete work on an intersection on Route 7 at North Main Street. The status of those grants is unclear. She did highlight, however, that millions of dollars have been spent on cleanup of on-site contamination and that the remainder of contamination issues are well documented with a remediation action plan approved.
Ms. Atamian said that she had joined the Zoning Commission as the 2005 Master Plan of Development for the property was being considered. She asked if, as in 2005, a charrette was being considered to plan for future development given changes in market conditions. Ms. Pemberton agreed that the originally envisioned plan would need to be rethought and that she would be looking for grants to help with that planning process. She said that she has heard from multiple developers looking to just place housing units in the western part of the property and she feels the site needs a broader vision.
Hearing no further discussion, Mr. Ogonek moved to adjourn the meeting. Ms. Atamian seconded the motion and it was carried unanimously, closing the hearing at 8:00 p.m.