Walkable Branchville: Zoning regulations, sewers present challenges

Despite hurdles, consultants envision work starting in 2019

Francisco Gomes, a consultant from the environmental firm Fitzgerald and Halliday, presented this blueprint of a “walkable” Branchville to the public Thursday night at the Ridgefield Library. The yellow buildings are commercial and the light teal ones are apartments. The green buildings are townhouses with first-floor garages and the blue ones are townhouses with basement-level garages. The gray buildings are existing homes and commercial properties.

Francisco Gomes, a consultant from the environmental firm Fitzgerald and Halliday, presented this blueprint of a “walkable” Branchville to the public Thursday night at the Ridgefield Library. The yellow buildings are commercial and the light teal ones are apartments. The green buildings are townhouses with first-floor garages and the blue ones are townhouses with basement-level garages. The gray buildings are existing homes and commercial properties.

Less traffic, more pedestrians.

That’s the goal of the town’s Branchville transit oriented development (TOD), which was presented at the Ridgefield Library Thursday, Jan. 5.

Francisco Gomes, an urban developer from the firm Fitzgerald and Halliday Inc., said that a year-long study of the area shows Branchville can be rehabilitated as an attractive and walkable village with a variety of retail and housing options. 

About 50 people attended Thursday’s meeting, including members of the Western Connecticut Council of Governments (WestCOG). The town and WestCOG have been working collaboratively on the plans since February 2016.

Gomes said that before any building occurs, there is a need for different zoning regulations and significant structural development: a larger wastewater treatment option, as well as changes to the transportation network to make it more accessible for pedestrians.

The federal Surface Transportation Program (STP) is responsible for 80% of these structural changes, according to Gomes, with the remaining balance provided by WestCOG and the Town of Ridgefield.

The wastewater treatment facility poses a challenge, as the most viable option includes an agreement with neighboring Georgetown, allowing Ridgefield to allocate part of their facility’s capacity for Branchville.

The transportation changes have been outlined by the state’s Department of Transportation, and can start as early as 2019, Gomes said.

Those changes include moving the  Portland Avenue bridge and closing entrance to the Branchville train station on Route 7.

“The intersection would work better because cars don’t have to be let in and appropriate signals will keep traffic moving,” Gomes told the room.

He said real estate development in Branchville, which would feature townhouses, businesses, shared parking, and open spaces, isn’t possible until the traffic and waste problems are solved.

The study projects Branchville could someday accommodate 449 townhouse and apartment units, 68,000 square feet of commercial space, and 1,256 parking spaces.

Displacement

Concerns were raised about building — possible business — displacement.

Gomes said that the development would be controlled by what and how much people want to buy.

“At no point do we advocate that the state do any takings,” he said.  “What we’re trying to do is create an environment that makes it possible for a property owner to redevelop their property, to sale to a developer and it really has to be market driven.”

 

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