What will happen to the old Montanari house at 99 Barry Avenue if the 10-acre property is being subdivided? How can four new houses be clustered on one-acre lots if the area is a two-acre zone? Will the public have access to three-acres of open space to be donated to the Conservation Commission?
Neighbors and other interested citizens had a wide variety of questions — and some opinions — at a public hearing on the proposed five-lot subdivision of the 10-acre Montanari property off Barry Avenue.
But what seemed to throw attorney Bob Jewell was being asked why his clients were trying to put so many houses — five — on the site.
“It’s a two-acre zone, and 10 acres,” Jewell replied. “This is not a socialist or community country. Why do you think?”
Jewell didn’t mention it, but the potential market value of the new lots might run to $250,000 or $350,000 for each.
A crowd of about 25 people turned out to the June 26 hearing, to learn about and offer comments on the proposed subdivision of just over 10 acres at 99 Barry Avenue. Eight people spoke on or asked questions about the proposal, and the public hearing was extended to Tuesday, July 23.
The development is proposed by the Sturges Brothers Inc., contract purchaser of the property from the estate of Nancy Montanari.
There would be four new house lots of just over one acre each, and the existing farmhouse would remain on a lot of about two acres — with the pool and outbuildings removed.
“This is a beautiful farm and the applicant wants to preserve the farmhouse,” Jewell said.
A remaining area of about 3.7 acres — including all three patches of wetlands on the property — would be donated to the town Conservation Commission as open space.
The development is proposed under the Planned Residential Development or PRD regulation, which the commission has used to encourage open space donations since its adoption in 1974.
The PRD rules allow houses to be clustered on lots smaller than those typically required by the zone in the area, as long as more house lots aren’t created than would be allowed under a traditional subdivision plan — in this case, a total of five houses on the 10-acre property.
“This being a two-acre zone, 10 divided by two equals five,” Jewell said.
The PRD rules also require that at least a third of the entire site be set aside as open space — the plan proposes donating 3.68 acres of the 10.19-acre site.
“The beauty of PRDs is the town gets open space,” said commission Chairwoman Rebecca Mucchetti.
Still, use of the rule allowing smaller lots was one source of consternation to neighbors.
Stan Broder of Remington Road calculated that if three and a half acres were to be donated as open space, out of 10 acres, that would leave something over six acres for five houses.
“I don’t understand how five lots could be developed,” he said.
“The pretext for the PRD” is “to provide open space,” said Adam Thompson of Ivy Hill Road.
If the property were to be subdivided, but not under PRD cluster rule, he asked, “how many building lots could you put on this property?”
“Five compliant lots,” said Jewell.
He emphasized that the PRD allowed homes to be clustered on smaller lots, but didn’t allow more houses to be built than could be achieved under a conventional subdivision with regulation-sized lots.
“It’s not a loophole,” Jewell said.
Barbara Soldano of Barry Avenue also had trouble with the five houses — though she focused on the developers having laid the groundwork for the plan by winning approval for an amendment that increases the number of houses allowed on an accessway from three to five.
The accessway amendment facilitated the subdivision design, Jewell said, but it did not change the lot-count of the development.
“If the amendment had not been approved, we’d have a second accessway,” Jewell said. “...Or, we’d have a subdivision road with a cul-de-sac.”
Soldano didn’t like it.
“This does open up a Pandora’s Box,” she said. “How many times can we allow five homes on the accessway instead of a road?”
Andrea Loscalzo of Holmes Road wondered about the proposed 3.7 acres of open space, which would be near her property line.
“Could that area change,” Loscalzo asked.
“Not without commission approval,” Jewell said.
“Would there be any plan to clear out vegetation?” Loscalzo asked.
“No plan for work here,” said Jewell.
Would the public have access?
The open space would be donated to the Conservation Commission — it would be town land — and so it would be open the public, Jewell said. But he didn’t think it wouldn’t attract hikers the way large open space preserves do.
“It’s not Hemlock Hills,” Jewell said. “...Unless you’re looking for frogs or box turtles, there’s no reason to go there.”
When, during the development process, Loscalzo asked, would the open space be donated to the town?
“We have to deed it over contemporaneous with filing a subdivision map,” Jewell said.
Loscalzo also wondered about the Montanari house that has long been on the site.
“It’s being preserved on two acres as lot 1,” Jewell said. “The applicant is fixing it up and selling it. I think he has a buyer interested.”
Zeljko Kuzmanovic of Barry Avenue asked if “the mature trees along Barry Avenue would be cut down.”
“Just a couple of trees, right at the entrance,” said Steve Sullivan of CCA surveying and engineering.
“Barry Avenue is a state highway with a lot of traffic,” said Kuzmanovic.
He also wondered how big the houses would be.
“About 3,800 to 3,900 square feet said Don Sturges of Sturges Brothers.
Lori Mazzola of Ridgefield Voters United, a citizens group interested in land use issues, was concerned that the full Conservation Commission have a role in inspecting the site, making recommendations, and accepting the open space.
“Will they have a formal walk-through?” she asked. “...The full commission was not there.”
At the close of the hearing, Planning and Zoning Director Richard Baldelli invited anyone interested in the project to visit the planning office in the town hall annex, where they’d be welcome to look through the documents and maps to get a full understanding of what’s planned.
“The big maps are in our office Monday to Friday, 8 to 4,” Baldelli said.”...We can put them on the table for you.”