GUILFORD — The town’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously Wednesday night to approve a change in zoning that will allow a shoreline developer to apply to build multifamily housing along the Boston Post Road.
Mystic-based Greylock Development Group has a purchase contract to buy 38.8 acres at 2222 and 2240 Boston Post Road, about a mile north of Interstate 95, with plans to develop multi-family housing.
The change affects the front 18.7 acres of the property that Greylock intends to develop. Greylock Managing Partner Ken Navarro said they intend to transfer the remaining 20.1 acres – mostly wetlands that couldn’t be developed anyway – to the Guilford Land Conservation Trust, which also holds the abutting properties.
The change affects a mix of two residential zones, including an R-8 zone that requires four-acre lot sizes. In 2015, the town’s Route 1 West Planning Committee decided that the R-8 zone was not appropriate for the area along Boston Post Road and would limit reasonable development, according to a memo from Guilford Zoning Enforcement Officer Erin Mannix.
The new zoning for the property is mixed use/conservation, which allows “low intensity” office uses and some residential uses, and is meant to preserve open space and protect wetlands. Guilford Environmental Planner Kevin Magee said in a memo that the zone allows “appropriate development” on the part of the property that slopes down towards Boston Post Road, while restricting more harmful development on the part of the property that slopes back to wetlands.
Mannix suggested extending the change across the entire property to connect with properties with the same zoning and to avoid the appearance of spot zoning. Navarro said that Greylock decided to ask to rezone only the front of the property to avoid the impression that they intended to develop the back end of it, which likely can’t be developed in any case.
Conceptual plans for the site include 12 buildings around an oval driveway, with two driveways connecting to Boston Post Road. Greylock will need the approval of the commission for its detailed site plans after the purchase of the land.
Navarro told the commission that while his group is known for higher-priced projects like waterfront condominiums at Central Hall in Mystic, they also develop mid-priced properties like the one they envision for Guilford.
Navarro said he expects units at the Guilford project to be priced “a tick or two” higher than the Niantic Village Crossing complex in East Lyme, where two-bed, three-bath condominiums have been listed for about $300,000.
“We’re always going to do something quality, but we can do something that people can afford, as well,” Navarro said.
Members of the commission expressed concerns about the possibility that the sale could fall through, and the town would be left with a mixed use zone and no multifamily housing development. Navarro and his attorney Bill Sweeney offered an addendum to the change in zoning requiring Greylock to provide the commission with 60 days notice if the deal cannot be completed, allowing the commission sufficient time to respond.
Sweeney said the proposal conforms with Guilford’s 2015 Plan of Conservation and Development, which calls for the town to diversify its housing stock to provide more affordable options to younger people, families with lower incomes, and older people with fixed incomes. It also calls for those units to be built near goods and services.
Board member Jaime Stein agreed that the project met with the goals of the town plan, and was also in line with efforts in the state legislature to increase affordable housing stock in suburban communities – particularly replacing a four-acre residential zone with a zone that would allow for multifamily housing.
“There is significant scrutiny of very large lot sizes, and as Erin alludes to in her memo, the R-8 is something like four acres,” Stein said. “So, I think the town moving towards the rezoning and allowing for multifamily housing fits well within that movement at the state legislature.