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Proposed rental development stands to diversify Trumbull housing market

August 12, 2018

How much development is too much?

That’s what Trumbull officials are contemplating with a string of potential projects up for a Wednesday night public hearing that could add hundreds of units of apartments to an otherwise lacking inventory.

Town officials have maintained they would like to see a mix of the housing and rental properties, but following the approval of the 202-unit luxury apartment complex on Oakview Drive last year the town has received a steady flow of interested developers.

“We are looking to diversify our housing in Trumbull, but you do get to the point where you don’t know how much is too much at one time,” said First Selectman Vicki Tesoro.

Industrial zone revitalizes

A large portion of developer interest has focused on Trumbull’s industrial zone.

Following a 2017 zone change allowed for up to 600 units of multifamily housing, which allowed Continental Properties to redevelop the former Canon USA office building, others have stepped in looking to do the same.

“The regulation only allows for 600 units in the industrial zone, which would be near maximum capacity,” said Rina Bakalar, director of economic development.

The former Henderson’s Lumber yard site on Reservoir Drive could be next on the list of redeveloped sites as developer Bob Dale is looking to transform the site currently owned by Sacred Heart University into a four-story, 215-unit multifamily complex on almost 18 acres of land.

The site is not currently on the tax rolls, according to Bakalar said.

Following community and official feedback on his initial proposal, Bakalar said Dale has made some changes to his plans that will be on the docket for Wednesday’s hearing.

A senior housing project proposed for 101-109 Oakview Drive is also up for discussion, Bakalar said, adding that the project wouldn’t offer medical services like an assisted living complex.

Largest taxpayer wants in

A proposal that has garnered sizable attention is also coming before land-use board’s from the town’s largest taxpayer.

Westfield Trumbull Mall owners put in a request at the start of the summer for a zoning change that would allow the retail hub to take on a mixed-use model that would allow developers to add 290 units of multifamily housing on its 76-acre property.

“It’s about addressing the transformation of malls period, and where they’re going,” Bakalar said. “Where they are all going is basically to mixed-use kind of zones where there’s more entertainment and housing mixed in with the retail and some office use.”

The proposed zone change was a topic of concern for officials and residents when it was presented at the start of the summer. Among them was Tesoro who expressed worry over the size of what developers wanted to bring to fruition.

“That’s something that is new to our community and that is something that is certainly new for our community on our Main Street area when we are talking about the mall,” said Tesoro, who has said that town officials would be working with mall owners if the zone change is approved.

Officials have been adamant about making sure the town staff would weigh in heavily on the direction of the neighborhood transformation and development if it receives a favorable vote.

“That is Main Street property and that is a gateway to the town, and it is very important that if something is allowed there that it is done right,” Bakalar said. “It’s great that people are interested in the town and we do need diversification, but it is a lot at one time.”

Step in right direction

Sean Ghio, policy director for the Partnerships for Strong Communities, sees the moves as a positive step for Trumbull’s housing market. The Hartford-based nonprofit focuses on statewide issues surrounding homelessness, affordable housing and community development.

“These kind of projects always have local concerns, but this is also something that Trumbull hasn’t had much of to date,” he said. “Trumbull is about 90 percent single-family homes, so it’s not in their normal experience to have a lot of multifamily development.”

Ghio said developers are creating an interest in Trumbull that bodes well for the town’s tax base, particularly with projects like the proposed mall development, which have created growing interest in other developers.

It’s also going to create a lot of choices for residents, he added.

“It’s creating more options for folks in town and also when you think about the mall and what makes a sustainable town,” Ghio said. “A lot of the folks who are working at the mall are coming from outside Trumbull. It seems like a no-brainer and natural thing for folks who want to be able to live close to their work as being a part of a healthy community.”

jordan.grice@hearstmediact.com

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