More details emerge about mixed-use development in Cheshire

CHESHIRE — Preparatory work has already begun on a new town-owned access road for the 300-unit apartment complex at Stone Bridge Crossing in Cheshire’s north end, even though aspects of the project still await final approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission.

On Oct. 24 several individuals connected with the massive commercial and residential development spoke about the project. The result of the public hearing — attended by zero members of the public — was that future date for a final decision on requested waivers was set, mostly likely to be Nov. 14. The public hearing must close by Nov. 28.

Among the Commission’s concerns voiced during the hearing was the possible location of school bus pickups and other traffic impacts. It was recommended that developers consult with School District Chief Operating Officer Vincent Masciana on the subject of transporting students. Bill Finger, a partner at Eastpointe LLC, the project’s developer, was also on hand to field questions and stressed that the issue of safety is treated with the utmost importance on all his projects.

Darin Overton, an engineer with SLR consulting, presented an overview of the site plan features. Part of the site, he said, was already partially disturbed during the construction of I-691. However, “most of the buffer to the Ten Mile River will be preserved as part of the project,” Overton said.

He stated that most of the vegetation in the development area currently was invasive autumn olive, “to be cleared as part of the development.” A stand of mature pines would be largely left intact. There is both a conservation restriction of about 13.8 acres and open space of 21.6 acres preserved, out of the 107-acre acre development, Overton explained.

The site is likely to comprise not only residential uses, but also a gas station, a 150-room hotel, and other commercial uses, Overton added.

Architect Ray Sullivan of The Sullivan Architectural Group, located in Milford, went into further detail as to the design features of the buildings. The project envisions nine separate buildings containing a mixture of apartment offerings, ranging from studios roughly 600 square feet in size to three-bedroom apartments of 1,425 square feet. The site will also have a 7,000 square foot “clubhouse,” with amenities such as a music room, pool, fitness center, and golf simulator. The clubhouse would be the first building built, per Overton.

Don Poland, a social scientist with consulting firm Goman+York, of East Hartford, presented on “municipal, fiscal and economic” impacts. He made a case that Cheshire, with a median age of 46.2 years (versus 40.6 in the rest of the state and 38.3 in the United States), needs to acknowledge a “shift” away from building large single-family detached homes toward multi-unit residential developments in close proximity to commercial activities.

Poland also offered his analysis of the likely future impact of the development on school enrollment numbers. He said, “(Cheshire) school enrolments have been in decline until this most recent year.” This is due to demographic factors including the lower birth rate and Connecticut’s “anemic” population growth. “Back in 1960s America, the fertility rate was something like 3.6 (children per woman), today it’s 1.52 in Connecticut. (That’s a) tremendous decline in the amount of children we have.”

In his analysis, Cheshire’s “owner-occupied, single-family, detached, lots of bedrooms” housing stock is the kind that “generates the most school-aged children.” The new development, by contrast, has studios and one-bedrooms, which, statistically, are less likely to add to enrollments.

By Poland’s calculations, only 69 total public school enrollments are “likely” in Cheshire schools as a result of this project. But “enrollments are not the primary driver of education costs,” he argued.

As for the fiscal impact, Poland forecasts a positive net impact for Cheshire’s books, with roughly $1.3 million in real estate taxes coming into the system from the units. Of course, that is offset by other factors, such as the new projected enrollments and cost of government services, leaving a gain of roughly $764,000. Poland suggested that the commercial aspect of the development would also be a net benefit, with more money being spent locally.


More From This Section