Neighbors are up in arms over the Planning and Zoning Commission’s approval of a zone change on a property earmarked for a medical/retail complex and library.
Commission members voted 6-1 to change a portion of a 20-acre property from residential to commercial on Route 67 Thursday.
The Route 67 portion of the property was already zoned commercial. The rear portion, near Wedge Hill Road, was zoned residential. Neighbors wanted it to stay that way, in order to provide a buffer between the commercial zone and their neighborhood.
The zone change was the first step for developer Salton Enterprises’ plans to construct a four-building medical and retail complex across the street from Oxford Paint and Supplies on Route 67.
Dr. Anthony and Sally DeSouza, principal investors with Salton Enterprises, also donated five acres on the rear of the property for a new town library, requiring the zone change amendment.
According to the approval, the commission’s decision was based on the grounds that is was consistent with the town’s economic and commercial strategies in the plan of conseravation and development.
Dan Wall, of Wedge Hill Drive, whose property abuts the site, hired attorney Gregory Cava to represent him and other neighbors during the commission’s public hearings.
Cava argued during the hearings that a portion of the property is in a aquifer protection area and that extending the commercial zone into a residential area is “unprecedented” in town.
“The commission flat out ignored those arguments,” Wall said.
Wall questioned the town’s objectivity since DeSouza offered to donate the land for a library.
“I have to believe there is no other reason for the approval,” he said.
David Babina, also of Wegde Hill Drive, said he moved to Oxford 33 years ago because it is a rural community.
“I understand there needs to be change,” he said. “But the buffer between commercial and residential areas is no longer important to the town and that is hard to understand.”
Commission member Ron Weisniak, a Republican who voted no, said the commission’s decision is not consistent with the town’s plan of conservation and development.
“There is no smooth transition between the commercial and residential areas,” he said.
First Selectwoman Mary Ann Drayton-Rogers attended the meeting and said the town installed a $1.6 million sewer extension to offset any aquifer concerns in that area.
She said project addresses residents requests for a medical and retail services in town.
“This is a positive thing,” she said. “The commission has done their job.”
Pat Cocchiarella, chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, said the public hearings were “wide open” for residents to address their concerns.
“This decision was best for the town,” he said. “The commission voted on what was relevant to the application.”