Pace House property in Cheshire discussed at public hearing

CHESHIRE — The historic Pace House, located at 802 South Main Street, was the topic of discussion the most recent Planning and Zoning Commission meeting. 

Developer Mark Fortlenza is looking to rezone the parcel where the home is located from an R-40 to an R-20a. Approximately 1.7 acres of the 3.06-acre property is zoned for R-40 while the rest, along South Main Street, is R-20a.

“Essentially, what we’re looking to do is to unify the zone designation on this parcel …” attorney James Perito, from Halloran Sage, said during the public hearing. Perito represents the applicant. 

Engineer Ryan MacAvoy, from SLR International Corporation, explained the history of the property and why it was dual-zoned. 

“Prior to 2003, our property (in question) was formerly about three acres in size, and a majority of the property was located on the east side of what was then the R40 and R20a boundary,” he said. “…. In 2003 and again in 2006, several properties were combined initially to create what is now Stonegate (Circle), which was a zone change from R28/R40 to the age-restricted PRD (private residential development) zone.”

MacAvoy went on to explain that most of the property was sold to be incorporated into the Stonegate developments. What remains is a 1.3-acre parcel, of which 60% is zoned as R20a and about 30% is zoned as an R40.

The difference between an R20 zone classification and an R40 zone classification has to do with how many homes can be built on the property. R20 zones typically are reserved for one-family dwellings that are roughly 20,000 square feet in size, whereas an R40 zone can accommodate single or multi-family dwellings with a maximum of 40,000 square feet.

MacAvoy then explained what Fortlenza wishes to do with the property once it is rezoned. 

“The property currently has a single family house, which is intended to stay that way for the short term,” he said.

“But, as with many R20a’s you’ve seen around town, they tend to be converted into office space or residential spaces and things of that nature. Combining these two zones will help facilitate that development.”

MacAvoy referred to the Town’s Plan of Conservation of Development (POCD) to point out that the parcel is noted as being entirely an R20a zone, though that is currently not the case.

“(The Town’s) POCD has this property appropriately zoned at an R20a, even though in reality there is this small portion of the property that is still R40,” he said. “As I am sure the commission is aware, the R40 zone is much more restrictive in terms of how the lot can be developed.”

However, some residents of the neighboring Stonegate properties are voicing concerns about what changing the zoning requirements might mean for the future of the area.

Resident Kevin Wetmore, who lives in the Stonegate community, addressed the commission during the meeting, suggesting that the zone change would be an unnecessary action.

“One of the first (issues) that came up is (regarding) the advertising on the real estate for this land,” Wetmore said. “It had been put out on the internet that the area had already been pre-approved for 14 units and we were getting a lot of feedback from (Stonegate) residents who were confused with this.”

Wetmore went on to explain that he brought this issue up directly with William Voelker, Cheshire’s town planner, and Voelker assured him and the rest of the Stonegate Home Owners Association that a 14-unit development had not been pre-approved.

Wetmore added that he brought the issue to the attention of the developer, Fortlenza, who told him that such a development was possible in the future, but that no decision had been made as to what to do with the property, if the zone change were approved.

“(Fortlenza) explained to us that his plans for the property had not been fully developed … but when asked about the Pace house, at the time, he said it’d be torn down,” Wetmore said. “… However the current request of the zone change is not in the best interest of the town or its residents. The reality is, there really is no compelling reason to make that change, but there are compelling arguments for not doing it.”

Wetmore’s primary concern is that the newly-zoned R40 area would push up against the backyards of some of the residents of the Stonegate properties, rather than giving them a buffer.

“Stonegate is on two sides of this property,” he said.

“There is space behind the (Pace) house so that, if it was turned into offices, there is still parking under the existing R20a, and we would support the change from an R40 to an R20, which makes more sense to (the residents of Stonegate).”

Stonegate resident Dennis Ceneviva brought up the issue of traffic flow in and out of the Stonegate entrance, and how it will be affected by the zone change. 

“The concern is about whether the increase in traffic (due to the zone change) will cause congestion,” he said. “Would a development where there’s this type of change in the zone create an increase in traffic? I think the answer is pretty simple.”

The Planning and Zoning Commission decided to keep the public hearing regarding the zone change open until its next scheduled meeting on Jan. 10.


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