CHESTER — A developer presented preliminary plans for Falcon Crest — a substantial development for residents ages 55 and over, to the Planning and Zoning Commission Thursday night.
The project, which is in the conceptual stage, is designed for between 60 and 100 condominiums in buildings of 10 units each on a 34-acre triangular-shaped site located on Winthrop Road bordering Deep River’s town line and abutting part of Old Butter Jones Road.
“We’ve done everything looking at 60 to 80 units … so eight buildings is more realistic but 10 is max,” attorney Joseph Rini, who represented Joseph Mingolello, principal of Connecticut Concrete Solutions LLC of Higganum, told the commission.
The base price for a condominium is estimated to be $289,900, with upgrades and add-ons available at an extra charge, said Rini. The buildings will require septic systems and a community well. Utility lines for electricity will be buried.
Mingolello intends to purchase the property for subdivision into three or more five-acre parcels, depending on wetlands locations throughout the site.
The town’s zoning for 55+ housing requires five-acre parcels and “buildings of not more than 10 units but does not restrict how many buildings can be placed on each five-acre parcel, except for certain yard requirements,” according to the slide deck supplied by Tina Good, a realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in Colchester who also participated in the presentation.
The architect, Joseph Mingolello, who is no relation to the developer, designed the two-story buildings with underground parking. The buildings’ construction will use insulating concrete forms, known as ICF, a method that incorporates modular polystyrene forms into the walls and adds extra insulation both for temperature and noise, according to the developer’s presentation.
Commission member Shubert Koong, asked how the complex might affect real estate values.
“Is there any studies that have been done about large projects like this that are bringing 60 to 80 new units into a town and what it does to existing housing prices and potentially depressing the value of existing homes?” he said.
Good said from her experience homes in surrounding neighborhoods tend to increase in value.
Rather than anecdotal evidence, Koong said he’d “be interested to see what the data showed.”
Jon Lavy, commission chair, urged Rini and Mingolello to consider the amount of open space that could be included in the project and to put thought into siting the buildings in harmony with the landscape rather than lining them up in a row, as shown in one of the drawings.
“My initial thought is I would encourage you to be really thoughtful about the land forms that you’re going to run across,” he said. “I know this is just diagrammatic, but just shoving two buildings down at the end doesn’t really show me vision.”
Lavy said the commission would likely want to walk the property as the project progresses toward zoning approval.
“Think about what’s going to make this viable for the long term. Once you build it we want it to be an asset for Chester. Really think how you can work with the land and the wetlands and how you can really leverage the property for someone like me who’s over 55 who would like to live in a beautiful place and be respectful to the land on which the building sits,” he said.
Rini also discussed reviving a project that would have constructed about 50 units in two or three buildings on Dock Road.
Lavy said the project had to be on a smaller scale than the first one presented a few years ago. “Last time you came in they were four-story or three-story buildings that were a mile long,” he said.
Rini said among the project’s changes would be the addition of a specialized wastewater treatment facility.
“We will be bringing to the project a separate sewage treatment plant — we’re going to have a small unit that’s been certified through Vermont and New Hampshire. We’ll have to check if Connecticut has certified it yet,” he said. “But, there will be no waste that comes off the property. The only thing that comes off the property will be potable water.”
Finishing the Dock Road project will require sensitivity and patience, as well as approvals from RiverCOG, Lavy said.
“It’s going to be a Gateway issue, it’s going to be wetlands, Long Island Sound, the historic and scenic river view and all of those kinds of things. The Miami-style beachfront is not going to make it in Chester … I’m not trying to discourage you, I’m just being frank with you about the regs,” he said.
Mingolello said, “The only thing I know is I bring in a couple million dollars worth of taxes.”
“We rule on regulations not on dollars,” said Lavy. “We can only rule by what sits in our regulations.”