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Local developer Paul Bowman will have to wait until September to learn if his proposed plan to build restaurants, office space, and condominiums along South Main street is approved.
The Planning and Zoning Commission tabled the vote on Monday night and will not meet again until the beginning of September. Bowman's plans involve renovating the old Keeler house at 166 S. Main St., and rebuilding the Keeler stove shop, which sat next door at 168 S. Main St until it was damaged during winter and razed earlier this year. His plan also includes office space and residential townhouses along the property. The proposed named of the development is Old Towne Commons.
Residents who live in the Old Towne Condominiums nearby have raised concerns over the proposed development, citing issues with traffic and safety. Attorney Anthony Fazzone, who represents Bowman, and Attorney Ronald Barba, who represents the Old Towne Condominiums Homeowners Association, are continuing to work behind the scenes to reach an agreement amenable to both sides.
After the meeting, Bowman said he wasn't disappointed that there wasn't a vote taken, and the delay until September would not impact his plans. He said the biggest thing to get done before this winter is to shore up the Keeler house so there isn't a collapse similar to what happened at the Keeler stove shop.
“The only thing pressing is the condition of the house,” Bowman said, after the meeting. “It needs to be reinforced and we lose daylight in the fall. The first priority is the house.”
At a Planning and Zoning meeting on July 11, residents from the Old Towne Condominiums submitted a petition against the development which was signed by 86 residents from 71 out of 122 units. Under the proposal, 2.5 acres of land would be used for the development and would abut Old Towne Road. Traffic seems to be the biggest concerns of the residents of the area, but a traffic engineer did a study and stated that the impact of the new development would be minimal. Planning and Zoning Commissioners Martin Cobern and Louis Todisco both stated during the meeting that they recently drove on Old Towne Road as a bypass between Route 10 and Wallingford Road. While Todisco felt no one would ever use the private road to save time, Cobern believes those coming from Wallingford Road and heading south on Route 10 could be inclined to do so.
Barba explained that the Homeowners Association is weighing its options in regards to the private road, which is not maintained by the Town. Those options include blocking it off with a gate that only residents could open. Fazzone said there would be no problems with that.
There are still some remaining issues that the two sides need to work out, but Fazzone told the Commission that it should not and cannot delay its vote based on these conversations.
“Unfortunately, we have not been able to reach an agreement,” Fazzone said. “I don't think this Commission should, or legally could, hinge (a vote) on this issue.”
Barba was confident that, with more discussion, a compromise could be reached.
“We haven't reached an agreement, but that's not because of a lack of effort or desire,” he said. “I'm confident in the coming weeks or months that we'll reach an agreement.”
The proposed development contains 72 parking spaces, which falls short of the required number. However, Fazzone explained that the owners of Slater Funeral Home have offered four parking spots in the corner of its lot to be used by employees of the proposed development. Fazzone said this falls within the regulation of off-site parking within 300 feet and within a straight line.
Town Council Chairman Tim Slocum, speaking for himself, stated his support for the development.
“I think it's a great project,” he said. “I think it would be good for the town.”
The Planning and Zoning Commission does not meet in August. This issue will be discussed at its first meeting in September.