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Residents Opposed To Keeler Development

July 17, 2011 by John Rook

Local developer Paul Bowman has proposed a plan that, if approved, would change the face of South Main Street.
Residents who live behind that area, off of Old Towne Road, aren't excited about the prospect.
On Monday night, dozens of residents from the Old Towne Condominium Association turned out for the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting to protest the planned development. With them, they brought a petition, signed by 86 residents from 71 out of 122 units in the condominium complex, expressing a similar point of view.
“This would not be beneficial to our neighborhood,” said Sarah Beaulieu, who lives in the complex and read a statement written by the signers of the petition.
Bowman has presented plans for a new mixed use development that would utilize 2.5 acres of land behind the historic Keeler House at 168 South Main Street. According to the proposal, the Keeler House would be completely restored and would hold apartments while, directly next door where the old Keeler Stove Shop had stood before recently being torn down, a near replica of that building would be constructed and would house retail shops and a restaurant.
Towards the rear of the property, an office building and six condominium units would be built and 72 parking spaces would be allotted for the entire development, though spaces for condominium residents would be housed underneath the units.
The problem, according to many residents who spoke Monday night, is traffic.
Old Towne Road, a private street not owned by the Town of Cheshire, is the only access point for the proposed development, and also serves as the exit and entrance for residents of Old Towne Condominiums, which are located directly behind where the development would be. With everything from retail space to a restaurant, residents expressed concern that the increase in the amount of vehicles would be too much.
“Most of us are worried about traffic,” said Jean Murphy, who lives in Old Towne Condominiums. “It is going to be an immense problem.”
Murphy also stated that, if the proposed office building were to house a doctor's office, the traffic problem could become even more pronounced.
“I don't know about you, but whenever I go to a doctor, there are not too many spaces empty,” she said.
Jack Murphy followed and expressed his fear that traffic would now be coming from three different places — the condominium complex, the planned development, and the former site of R.P. Downey Restaurant, now home to a coffee shop and realtor office — creating a dangerous environment.
“It's going to change our lifestyle immensely and I don't like it,” he said.
However, Attorney Ronald Barba from Hamden, who represents the Old Towne Condominium Association, stated that he, along with the Association Board, had met with Bowman and his representatives recently and hashed out many of the issues being raised by residents. Barba called the meeting “constructive” and “very fruitful,” suggesting that the association could have a “good working relationship” with Bowman.
According to Barba, many members of the association were not aware of what had been discussed by Bowman and the Board, and that a meeting was planned for the entire Association for early next week, where that information would be more fully communicated.
“A lot of the concerns you have heard thus far echo the concerns of the Board,” said Barba. “I believe we do have an understanding on how best to eliminate the problems.”
Attorney Anthony Fazzone, of Fazzone and Ryan, LLC in Cheshire, who represents Bowman, also spoke of the meeting with the Association Board and stated that the sides had agreed to split the cost for a fence that would shield the condominium complex from the new development while also agreeing to enter into a sewer use and maintenance agreement.
Yet, while Barba suggested that an upcoming discussion with members of the Old Towne Condominium Association could alleviate some of the residents' concerns, those at the meeting weren't so sure.
“There's no reason the Association should have to use its resources to help put up a fence,” said Beaulieu. “The developer is the one infringing on our rights.”
Jack Murphy also expressed his frustration with Barba, saying that “from the get-go he said everyone was okay with this. Not so.”
The public hearing on the project was continued to the next PZC meeting on July 25.

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