Proposal Goes to Appeals Board for Variance Approval
Town Plan and Zoning Commissioners say they would welcome an extended stay hotel at the site of the proposed train station, but a zoning glitch led them to deny an application to build a Homewood Suites there. Ambiguity about whether the plan had adequate road frontage led the board to deny the plan “without prejudice” and a recommendation to bring it before the Zoning Board of Appeals first.
The proposal, submitted by the Hartford Lodging Partners, LLC for the Estate of Dominic F. Farina, Trustee, calls for the construction of a four-story extended stay hotel owned by the Hilton hotel group on property know as 99 Marsh Hill Road. But commissioners questioned whether the lot has the required road frontage on Marsh Hill Road and I-95.
According to the Commission, based on the maps presented with the application, the property has no frontage on Marsh Hill Road. Commissioner Ozzie Parente said, “We denied the application so they can now go to the ZBA to ask for a variance of that frontage requirement. If they get the variance, the applicant can come back to P & Z and they should be in good shape for an approval of the project.”
Engineers and planners from Codesoti and Associates in Orange argued on behalf of the applicant that at one time the property had 450 additional feet of road frontage on Marsh Hill Road that was taken by the state for the construction of I-95. Now the state owns a portion of the property that the applicant needs as road frontage. “The state came along and kept taking bites out of it,” said Jeff Gordon, president and planner at Codespoti & Associates. “When the state takes land there’s nothing you can say and they are sloppy about it because they want what they want. The board should have just agreed with us and approved it. We have a compelling argument, it would have required the board to sign on and agree to interpretation, a corner piece has two frontages – in this case a portion of the frontage is the highway ramp to I-95 on Marsh Hill Road.”
Commissioners unanimously voiced support of the plan, saying it should be a “slam dunk” for the ZBA to grant a variance for approval. “There’s nothing about this application that I don’t like,” said Parente.
“We’re just trying to help, not delay,” added Commissioner Ralph Aschettino. By denying the application without prejudice, the applicant can circumvent the six-month waiting period to reapply and possibly have additional application fees waived.
Just two of the handful of people who attended the public hearing gave opinions about the plan. Attorney Joe Williams of Shipman & Goodwin LLP voiced concerns about the project on behalf of his client, Courtyard by Marriott New Haven/Orange. “The first issue is frontage and I think it’s a serious issue, “he said. “The board has to apply consistent regulations. Our surveyor reported a 30 foot gap between the boundaries of the property.”
Selectman and Drummond Road resident Mitch Goldblatt described the plan as a “fine application” that would be a “perfect spot” for a new hotel. “The whole area could use another hotel,” he said.
By Laura Fantarella – Orange Town News Correspondent