Councilor with swing vote on Southington land swap opposes developer’s plan

Councilor with swing vote on Southington land swap opposes developer’s plan

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SOUTHINGTON — After a series of tie votes earlier this month, four Democrats and four Republicans on the Town Council agreed to table the question of extending sewers to a planned Laning Street subdivision. The Democratic councilor missing that night said Wednesday she’s not interested in granting an exception to extend sewers to the planned development.

Frank Fragola, a local business owner and developer, wants to connect age-restricted condominiums he plans to build on 11 acres at 295 Laning St. to the town's sewer system.

The property is outside the town's sewer service zone. Fragola offered to forgo sewers on undeveloped land he owns in the zone on West Street to get sewer service at the planned condominiums.

Republicans approved the swap at the sewer committee and at the council. Democrats opposed it.

Democrat Kelly Morrissey, a council and sewer committee member, couldn’t attend last week’s council meeting or the sewer committee meeting where Fragola’s proposal was recommended in a 2-to-1 vote.

The town developed a map outlining areas of current and future sewer service as well as sewer avoidance areas. Fragola’s Laning Street property falls in the sewer avoidance area.

The map was part of planning for a $57 million sewer plant upgrade and required as part of a federal reimbursement program. Morrissey said to allow exceptions to that map would be “foolish,” particularly before the capabilities of the new plant are even tested.

The new plant should be completed by the end of next year.

“Based on the information I’ve been given, it seems to me it’s the land owner just trying to make as much money as he can,” Morrissey said. “He bought the property a while ago knowing the parameters.”

Due to wetlands on the 30-acre West Street site proposed for the swap, Morrissey said it wasn’t a fair trade of land.

Unanswered questions

Chris Palmieri, Town Council chairman and a Democrat, said he wanted more information about the plan including whether development would be equal between the two sites. Councilors weren’t given enough time to consider Fragola’s proposal before voting, he said.

“I couldn’t believe we were adding it the agenda,” Palmieri said. “We didn’t have the answers to these questions.”

He said the issue could be raised at the August council meeting after more information has been given to councilors.

Republican motions to accept the sewer committee’s recommendation in favor of Fragola’s plan failed since five votes are needed for approval.

William Dziedzic, a Republican councilor and sewer committee member, said even without the land swap, the addition of Fragola’s condos to the overall wastewater flow of the town would be minimal. The swap would have a “good result” and Dziedzic didn’t have concerns about amending the sewer map.

“I didn’t find that the intent with the sewer map was to never expand it,” he said.

Morrissey was concerned about other developers also requesting sewer exemptions if Fragola is given one. Republicans at last week’s meeting said each case would be judged on its own merits.

In 2016, the developer withdrew plans to build 60 housing units on the 11-acre property. Bryan Meccariello, an attorney representing Fragola, said they now envision 31 standalone condominiums for residents 55 and older.
Twitter: @JBuchananRJ

Southington tax assessor map.