MERIDEN — Site plans to build 16 studio apartments in the former St. Joseph convent are expected to go before the Planning Commission when it meets on Oct. 11.
The former convent, vacant for decades, is under contract for sale by the Hartford Archdiocese and the Carabetta Companies. The agreement allows the sale to proceed providing Carabetta demolishes the former St. Joseph School at 159 W. Main St. to make way for more parking for St. Joseph Church and the new apartments. That part of the plan was approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals in August.
The apartment plan was tabled last month to allow attorney Dennis Ceneviva to check with the city’s legal department to see if a variance for a landscape buffer was required to proceed. Ceneviva said the matter was clarified and a variance was not required because the convent was built in 1932 and the city’s zoning laws didn’t go into effect until the 1950s.
“There was a question on the part of the commission on whether they needed a variance on a landscape buffer because it talked about a nonconforming use,” Ceneviva said. “But the rule came into effect in the 1950s and no variance is needed. It will go before Planning (Commission) again.”
Our Lady Queen of Angels Parish Corp. filed the variance request on behalf of Joe Carabetta, who attended the August meeting with Ceneviva. The plan to build 16 studio apartments in the former convent and the elimination of the school will increase parking for the church and residents.
"The lot at 19 Goodwill Ave. will be split and a new parking lot will be created for the church on 159 West Main St.," Ceneviva said. "This will result in a reduction of parking spaces from 35 to 22 on those two parcels; a total of 84 nonconforming spaces were previously used, including off-street parking."
Ceneviva continued that the consolidation of three city parishes has led to a significant decline in church events. He added letters from two surrounding businesses that said parishioners and church visitors can continue to use their parking lots when needed. There is also on-street parking on Lewis Avenue, West Main Street and Linsley Avenue.
The proposal has the support of the parish and its board, according to testimony from parish board member Mark Dupuis, who is also a former ZBA member.Crown Street apartments
Ceneviva said plans for a 21-unit garden-style apartment project on Crown Street will likely return before the Planning Commission in November. The 1,200- to 1,300-square-foot apartments or condominium plan was denied in September because of elevation concerns.
The developer’s engineers are working to satisfy commission concerns over potential 100-year flooding.