Shelter Ridge Seeks Wetlands Commission OK

Shelton’s Inland Wetland Commission will discuss the controversial “Shelter Ridge” development at a meeting this week.

An application seeking the commission’s approval for the development was filed Dec. 21.

The application will be on the agenda for the commission’s regular meeting Jan. 11, 2018 at 7 p.m. in City Hall.

The application says the development would disturb 0.06 of the 121-acre property’s 3.56 acres of wetland.

A lawyer representing the developer said a public hearing on the project would likely be scheduled for a later date.

The proposal to develop the Bridgeport Avenue property — with up to 2.6 million square feet of apartments, retail, and offices — attracted widespread public opposition during public hearings in 2016 before the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission.

Neighbors said that with Bridgeport Avenue already heavily developed — with its tax revenue the envy of Shelton’s Valley neighbors — Shelter Ridge would destroy one of the last undeveloped properties in the area.

They pointed out the area behind the proposed development is anything but strip malls and corporate towers, and that development would eliminate a buffer between Shelton’s busy commercial sector and a quieter residential area.

Despite the outcry, last March the Planning & Zoning Commission voted to pave the way for the development by changing the zoning on the property from “light industrial” to a “planned development district.”

Those opposed to the project coalesced into an organization called Save Our Shelton, and vowed to take their displeasure to the polls.

In November’s election, longtime P&Z Chair Ruth Parkins, who voted to approve the project, lost her seat on the board, and three candidates endorsed by SOS won.

Lawsuit

In addition, John and Judith Tillman, residents of Mill Street, a quaint country road bordering the property, have filed a lawsuit appealing the Planning and Zoning Commission’s decision.

The lawsuit says the commission’s approval of the zone change was “illegal, unlawful, arbitrary and capricious.”

It says the developer failed to produce adequate evidence for the approval and that the commission “ignored uncontroverted substantial and contrary evidence.”

As a result, the Tillmans’ property about 100 feet from Shelter Ridge will decrease in value, the lawsuit says.

It asks a judge to nullify the approval and order the commission to deny the application.

According to a GoFundMe page set up by Save Our Shelton, the group has raised more than $30,000 to fund the appeal and opposition to the development’s application to the Inland Wetland Commission.

“Your contribution will help fund our two current legal committees: the Shelter Ridge Planning & Zoning Legal Appeal, and the Shelter Ridge Wetlands Committee,” the page says.

In a Facebook message Wednesday, Greg Tetro, one of Save Our Shelton’s leaders, said he didn’t think the wetland application would go forward with the lawsuit pending.

“I would be surprised if they spend money on Wetlands hearing when they have an open lawsuit,” Tetro said.

Fran Teodosio, the lawyer representing the Planning & Zoning Commission in the lawsuit, declined to comment on the case.

According to the Judicial Branch website, a conference call on the lawsuit is scheduled for Jan. 26, with a trial tentatively scheduled for April.

Developer’s Lawyer Reacts

Dominick Thomas, the lawyer representing the developer, Trumbull’s Sirjohn Papageorge, said the lawsuit won’t put the brakes on the development.

“It’s not slowing anything down,” Thomas said. “We’re filing for wetlands, we’re filing for everything else. The client is going forward.”

Though he predicted after the zone change approval having all the required approvals for construction within a year, Thomas said the timeline could take more time because of modifications the Planning and Zoning Commission asked for in its approval.

“It’s probably going to be a little longer than that because of the changes they requested,” he said.

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