Zoning commission eyes sidewalks for Branchville property

The property at 33 Ethan Allen Highway.

The property at 33 Ethan Allen Highway.

Contributed photo

Disagreement over the need for a sidewalk slowed approval of plans to pave a parking area, build a storage garage, and do some exterior improvements at a mixed-use property in Branchville’s commercial zone.

The application concerns 33 Ethan Allen Highway. The property is about a third of an acre with an existing four-story frame structure built close to Route 7. The property also has asphalt and gravel parking areas, walkways and a lawn.

It’s sandwiched between Wilridge Road and the commercial property that houses The Barn Door restaurant.

“We’d value a sidewalk down there,” Planning and Zoning Director Richard Baldelli said during an Oct. 29 discussion of the plan.

“We’re trying to get sidewalks wherever we can,” added Planning and Zoning Commission Chairwoman Rebecca Mucchetti.

A representative of the property owner, CT Property Assistance LLC, didn’t agree to include a sidewalk in the plans.

“I like sidewalks. They’re safe and they’re nice,” he said.

But he felt the building on this property is too close to Route 7 and property line of the state right of way.

“There’s no where to put a sidewalk there,” he said. “...The front of the building is on the state line.”

Commission members considered making creation of a sidewalk in front of the property a condition of approval, but the idea had met resistance from the owner, who seemed to feel it was more important to get moving on his plans to improve the parking area and build a storage garage.

“I think it’s shortsighted to keep harping on sidewalks,” he said.

He also said his understanding is that the state is looking into building sidewalks there on its own. Mucchetti said that this is part of the Branchville “TOD” or Transit Oriented Development plan that the town and state are working on.

The commission ended up tabling the discussion and extending consideration of the plan to its Nov. 12 meeting.

“We’ll drive by and take a look at your concern with the sidewalk,” Mucchetti said.

The plans discussed include paving of the parking lot for 10 cars, and the construction of a 22- by 38- foot storage garage, to be used by the business Window Solutions. The last phase of the plan is expected to involve some exterior improvements to the building at the north end of the site.

The four-story 1,300-square-foot building dates to about 1900. It is set up for commercial use on the ground floor, where a brick facade was added years ago. A barbershop operated there for many years. The three floors above are a mix of apartments, offices and other uses — including a piano teacher, according to the discussion.

The plans for parking lot improvements and a storage garage would need approval as a revision to a special permit, with reference to regulations concerning development in a floodplain and in a local aquifer protection area.

As the plans for the garage were described, there would be five “flood vents” in the building that “will allow floodwater to enter and exit during a flood event.”

The plan involves about a 500-square foot increase in the amount of impervious surface on the site.

A consulting engineer working for the town, Tessa Jucaite, estimated that the property was about 100 feet from the Norwalk River. The river is east of the development site, and separated from it by Route 7 and the business on the east side of the highway, Precision Brake.

The property’s drainage goes into the Norwalk River. The engineer for the developer, Harry Rocheville of McChord engineering, said there could be “pre-treatment” of runoff as it enters the drainage system.

Commissioners agreed, and Rocheville said he will put together plans for that at the next hearing sessions.

“We could look at different options,” he said.

There were about eight people in the audience during the commission’s discussion of the plans.