Developer returns with plans for James Farm Road

The developer of a proposed affordable housing apartment complex on James Farm Road is again seeking zoning approval.

The new Julia Ridge plan calls for 116 apartments in a four-story building, with 215 parking spaces underneath the structure. Thirty percent of the units — or 36 apartments — would be designated as affordable under state statute 8-30g.

Previous applications to develop the site at 795 James Farm Road have been rejected or withdrawn, including a 60-unit proposal that went through the zoning process and was denied in late 2016. There has been litigation on the matter, with at least one developer appeal still pending in court.

The Zoning Commission is expected to hold a public hearing on the newest proposal at its Jan. 30 meeting. Prior to that, at its Jan. 16 meeting, the Planning Commission will consider the developer’s application to create a special zoning district on the land.

In September, the developer withdrew a 116-unit proposal before any public hearings or presentations took place. The applicant and property owner is 500 North Avenue LLC, which uses a Success Avenue address in Stratford.

The developer is seeking a zone change from the current one-acre single-family home zoning to create a new Julia Ridge Apartment Zone, which would cover only this specific site.

The property drops down sharply from James Farm Road and includes wetlands in a rear corner. It borders Peters Lane and Roosevelt Forest, is located across from Alexandra Drive and slightly north of Candlewood Road, and is close to Oronoque Village.

Some Stratford officials have suggested the town try to buy the property, as it is next to Roosevelt Forest, and state open space funding is being pursued for that purpose.

The new proposal includes the entire 15.6-acre property, while some earlier plans were limited to just a portion of the land. About 85% of the overall parcel would remain undeveloped, according to the application, with all development activity taking place on about 2.2 acres near the road.

“The disturbed area is the furthermost area away from the wetlands and forest,” according to the application. The disturbed area is where actual development activity would take place.

There would be two driveways off James Farm Road, and a long retaining wall behind the apartment complex due to the slope. Large amounts of fill would be needed to create a flat area for the development.

The land has more than 600 feet of frontage on James Farm Road, and the new building would be set back almost 100 feet from the road. The structure would be 35 feet high.

The complex would have both one- and two-bedroom apartments. The affordable units would be dispersed throughout the building and be comparable to the market-rate units, as is required under 8-30g, the state’s affordable housing law. Affordable unit rents could be as low as $967 monthly for one bedroom and $1,230 for two bedrooms.

In comments on the earlier 116-unit proposal before it was withdrawn last fall, P&Z Administrator Jay Habansky described it as “spot zoning,” “out of character for the neighborhood,” “substantially inconsistent” with the town master plan, and “quite intense for the relatively small footprint” of the property.

Habansky raised questions about the impact on wildlife and wetlands, the structural integrity of a planned retaining wall, and the lack of nearby services and public transportation.

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