Jul 26, 2014
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Town Powers Limited In Jelliff Mill Zoning [UPDATE]

"Normal rules of density, coverage and set backs are not in and of themselves sufficient reason to deny this application," town Attorney says.

Town Powers Limited In Jelliff Mill Zoning [UPDATE] Town Powers Limited In Jelliff Mill Zoning [UPDATE] Town Powers Limited In Jelliff Mill Zoning [UPDATE] Town Powers Limited In Jelliff Mill Zoning [UPDATE]

UPDATE: Jan. 25, 1:52pm

The development plan for 41 and 47 Jelliff Mill Rd. may be denied by the town only if "it is necessary to protect substantial public interests in health, safety or other matters," according to

Furthermore, the burden is on the town to prove that those considerations "clearly outweigh the need for public housing," he said.

Attorney Tim Hollister, who presented the development plans to the and commissions on behalf of the owners, is asking for an amendment to the town's zoning regulations to allow for a Mixed Income Housing Zone at this location. Because the project includes five moderate income units, the application for a 16-unit three-building townhouse project is governed by the state's Affordable Housing and Land Use Act, which supercedes town zoning requirements.

As Jarboe explained to the commission and audience members at the P&Z meeting Tuesday, towns in Connecticut do not have any "inherent power" to enact zoning regulations. Any authority they exercise is granted by the state.

"The state giveth and the state taketh away," Jarboe said, in explaining that this statute, enacted in 1990, takes away the town's power to enforce its own regulations for a project of this type. "Normal rules of density, coverage and set backs are not in and of themselves sufficient reason to deny this application," he said.

Hollister and Jarboe both noted that towns in which 10 percent or more of housing qualifies as affordable are exempt from this statute. A town with 2.5 percent or more may qualify for a moratorium of four years from enforcement of the statute, Hollister said. 

Jarboe confirmed that New Canaan currently falls below that 2.5 percent mark, but said that if Hollister's figures were correct, it appears approval of the Jelliff Mill plan would enable the town to qualify for a moratorium.

The presentation made to the commission included several points on which Hollister said the public might be misinformed:

  • This is a "site specific" application. Hollister said that it is "simply not the case" that if this application is approved it will open the "flood gates" for similar applications elsewhere in New Canaan. Noting that this statute has been in place for twenty years, he said if it were going to happen, "it would have happened before this."
  • The mill which currently stands on the property, and which would be torn down, is a block structure built in the 1940's, not the original wooden mill, which dated from the 1700's and was destroyed in a fire shortly before the current building was built.
  • The dam on the property will be repaired by the current owner in accordance with the state's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection prior to residential occupancy. The estimated cost of $350 to $400,000 will be paid by the current owner and once done should last "for decades."
  • The application has been changed to recognize the historic value of the house at 41 Jelliff Mill Rd. They are, "ready and able to look at options to conduct historic preservation of all or part of the building," he said.

In addition to Hollister, Rob Frangione, a civil engineer from New Canaan, Michael Stein, an architect based in Norwalk, Kate Throckmorton, a landscape architect, based in Norwalk and Bernard Adler, an engineer who conducted traffic studies in conjunction with the 2010 office building application for the site, were in attendance.

They presented site plans and renderings of the proposed development, which are attached.

Regarding the traffic studies, several commission members questioned the conclusion that the current plan would result in less "trips" to and from the property than the previously planned office building.

Adler said his study indicated that the additional traffic from the complex would result in an additional 12 to 13 trips per day during "peak hours," resulting in an additional .10 second delay at the Ponus Ridge Rd. Jelliff Mill Rd. intersection and 1.7 seconds where Jelliff Mill Rd. meets Rte 106, which he said was, "basically a de minimus impact."

said prior to the presentation that questions would not be taken from the audience at this meeting. The committee will schedule another session with the applicants in the next few weeks to allow for questions from the public. He urged those present Tuesday to return prepared to ask specific questions, rather than simply offer an opinion, and to appoint several spokespersons in the interest of efficiency.

ORIGINAL STORY

A 16-unit two-building townhome development is the plan the owners of 41 Jelliff Mill Rd. and 47 Jelliff Mill are scheduled to present to town bodies later this month.

According to the application received by  on Dec. 23, the three structures on the property --- the mill, a house and garage would be demolished.

records indicate a mill has stood at this site since the early 1700's. In 1949 when the mill was destroyed in a fire, the concrete and steel building which now stands was built.

Bryan and Cheryl Gardiner, owners of 41 Jelliff Mill Rd. and 47 Jelliff Mill LLC, owner of the mill property are seeking an amendment to New Canaan zoning regulations for a "Mixed Income Housing Zone," the application states. 

Under the proposal, 30 percent, or five, of the townhome units would be price and income restricted as according to the state Affordable Housing Land Use Appeals Act. This plan for residential development allows for greater leniency with certain residential zoning regulations, such as setbacks, according to .

to erect a wooden building and to allow a change from its nonconforming use as a mill to a nonconforming office building. 

At that time, concerning the flood plain, increased traffic and real estate property values, among others. That proposal was eventually withdrawn.

An email from Jelliff Rd. residents Howard and Lisa Smith, included in the current application file, opposes this proposal. They express safety and environmental concerns and the appropriateness of 16 housing units on a 1.6 acre parcel. 

The current proposal will be presented at the Inland Wetlands commission regular meeting on Jan. 23 and at the regular meeting of the Planning and Zoning commission on Jan. 24.

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