Planning and Zoning weighs new office space plan

After the Aug. 3 Planning & Zoning meeting, it’s back to the drawing board for a proposal to turn two small houses on Monroe Turnpike into offices.

The property is at numbers 233 and 234 Monroe Turnpike, just south of the large office facility of orthodontist Dr. Joshua Baum. EEE Equities of Trumbull wants to convert the vacant houses into low-density professional office space. The project is being designed by Solli Engineering of Monroe.

P&Z Commission Chairman William Porter prefaced the presentation by noting that the firm had submitted the last addition to the exhibits section of its proposal at 4 p.m. that afternoon. This afforded commissioners no time to review the document.

“Please relay to Mr. Solli that we don’t want to receive new information on the night of our meeting,” said Porter.

As outlined by the firm’s senior project engineer, Casey Burch, the proposal would convert the two structures to about 3,000 square feet of office space. One of the houses is two and one-half stories and the second is one and one-half stories. A garage that’s now on the property would be demolished.

New features include the addition of a 19-space parking lot as well as wooden wheelchair ramps on each building. The existing driveway entrance has been widened from 11 feet to 24 feet, Burch said. The complex would also make use of an existing septic tank and leaching field because it has been reviewed and approved by the Monroe Health Department.

“Our proposal also includes the creation of a water-quality basin on the north side of the property, which would handle some of the water runoff from the parking lot,” said Burch. At street side, the plan would add another catch basin for storm runoff to the one that’s currently in place.

Green concerns

In response to comments aired at a previous P&Z session, Burch returned with a more robust plan for landscaping at the site.

“We will be providing new flowering dogwoods, new shrubs, plus one new oak tree and a maple tree,” he said.

The water-quality basin would be screened from view by trees and shrubs, Burch noted. However, most of the commission felt the plan still needs more greenery. One additional bone of contention was the lack of any enclosure or screening on the wheelchair ramps and decks that will be added to each office building.

Porter also said plantings in the rear of the property need to be added.

“I drove in there earlier tonight and there is a clear view of the residential properties that are behind it,” he said. “Even though there is vegetation, there needs to be more.”

In response to comments from the previous hearing, Solli Engineering’s modified proposal also included a loading area and ramp. To accommodate this, the decking on the smaller building was extended.

However, Town Engineer Scott Schatzlein noted that the proposed location for the loading area would require an SU-30 commercial truck – the class of vehicles FedEx uses, for example – to make a three-point turnaround.

“I’d like your team to see if the delivery area can be placed further back on the property, which would eliminate that need,” he said.

Revisions to the proposal will be on the agenda again at the Aug. 24 P&Z meeting. P&Z commissioners insisted upon the installation of sidewalks — something the developer had not planned to do.

Sidewalks a must

Planners at MetroCOG (Metropolitan Council of Governments, which includes Monroe) aim to have sidewalks along the entire length of Monroe Turnpike. When new projects are proposed along the corridor, proposed property owners are urged to add sidewalks. MetroCOG will eventually provide funding to fill in the gaps.

“The less gaps we have to fill in, the more likely we are to get the funding,” said Will Agresta, P&Z Administrator at Town Hall. Agresta also said Solli Engineering has to provide some form of interior layout to conform with the town’s requirements — even though EEE Equities has not lined up any tenants yet.

Other business

Among other business, the Commission approved a request by Cottage Street LLC for a four-year extension on its proposal for a 14-lot housing subdivision. The Town gave the development its green light in September of 2007, but the economic meltdown of fall 2008 caused Cottage Street LLC to mothball the plan. Its request for another extension illustrates that real-estate values in Monroe have not returned to their pre-recession levels.

The Commission also authorized several modifications to Section 3.1.6 of the town’s building codes, which govern setbacks and easements. These changes were proposed by Agresta in response to issues that crop up in the Planning and Zoning Department.

The change eliminated the need for an additional setback on a shared driveway or private road, a rule that stymied new construction and property additions along such roadways.

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