CLINTON – Plans for a 40-unit apartment complex on East Main Street sparked concerns about spot zoning during an informal presentation to the Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday.
Westbrook-based Dattilo Group, owner of the Water’s Edge Resort & Spa, gave the commission a first look at plans to redevelop the former A Victorian Village Inn at 345 E. Main St. into a complex of 40, one-bedroom apartments, with four “affordable” units.
Since the property is currently zoned for industrial use, attorney Andrea Gomes told the commission they will apply to create a new zone to allow multifamily housing – a “floating” zone, called the “multifamily adaptive reuse zone.” Gomes said this would apply only to the Victorian Village property.
“We believe the area is clearly transitional in nature, particularly as a corridor entering into Clinton from Westbrook, and given the nearby residential uses, nearby amenities like public transportation, retail, restaurant, and so on,” Gomes said. “We believe that a multifamily community on the site is certainly compatible with the uses in the area.”
Town Planner Abby Piersall said the developer could not use the state’s 8-30g statute to put a multifamily development on the property because it’s zoned for industrial use, which doesn’t allow residential uses at all. The floating zone, therefore, would be used to open the door to their development, she said.
Gomes said the property has been used for short-term rentals since the inn closed, and the apartments being proposed would be more traditional one-year leases.
The group would demolish four of the buildings in the back of the property to make way for a new, two-story building with 26 one-bedroom apartments, Gomes said. It would keep the remaining eight buildings and convert them into 14 one-bedroom apartments. Each apartment would be about 1,000 square feet.
Commissioners questioned whether the proposal amounted to spot zoning, given that the change is aimed at only one property. But Gomes argued that, to be considered spot zoning, it would need to apply only to a small area of land and make changes that are inconsistent with the town’s zoning plan.
Gomes said the town’s development plan highlights the east end of town as an area of focus for planning, saying it lacks a “welcoming or cohesive character.” This development would improve an “underutilized” property at the border of Clinton and Westbrook, she said.
Gomes said the plan also highlights the need for more dense residential developments and to phase out “semi-permanent” housing options, like the short-term rentals at the site now, for “higher quality” multifamily housing.
“One of the reasons we’re specifically drafting [the new zone] for this site is so the commission can really take a look at the regulation as applied to the site,” she said. “I can tell you, this is done all the time around the state. This is not the first time we’ve done this.”
Commissioners also questioned the safety of putting a dense housing development next to a propane dealership. Gomes said she assumes the business has strict regulations to follow, and noted the short-term rental use has been happening without issues.
“There’s no reason for us to be concerned that anything would change going forward, whether it’s 10 units or 20 or 30,” Gomes said. “The way the site is currently set out, there doesn’t appear to be a very clear dividing line from the Quality Propane facility to ours. With this improved site, we’ll have fencing and landscaping.”
The complex would have 60 parking spaces, a septic system on site and be connected to the Connecticut Water supply.
Gomes said there are no current plans for mixed-use development on the site, nor amenities like playgrounds, because they don’t expect many children in the one-bedroom apartments.
Asked why all of the apartments were proposed to be one-bedroom, Gomes said there is high demand for one-bedroom apartments in Clinton and around the state.
“There’s definitely demand for this type of product,” Dattilo Group’s Daniel Ackerman said.
The group has not submitted a formal application for the project.