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The Planning & Zoning Commission (PZC) approved a special permit application by Branford-based Vigliotti Construction for a 31-lot development off Long Hill Road near Bullard Drive, setting unique restrictions and requirements on the construction based on an open space subdivision regulation.
This is the first time the town has granted a permit based on this regulation, according to Zoning Enforcement Officer Erin Mannix.
The purpose of an open space subdivision is to provide flexibility for residential developments while simultaneously preserving wetlands, forests, and any other natural resources, and without being a detriment to scenic views or town character. A minimum of 30 percent open space is required for a development to qualify as an open space subdivision.
Out of the 77-acre property, 53 acres will remain open space, according to plans submitted by Vigliotti. Mannix said the property is desirable for a residential development in part due to its natural beauty, including views of and access to West River and proximity to Bittner Park.
Town officials raised a handful of concerns related to the development over the past few months, including frontage along town roads that might affect “community character,” drainage from new roads and driveways, an overall adherence to environmental low-impact design principles, and access by walking paths to nearby town properties—namely Bittner and Baldwin School.
When approving the application late last month, the PZC said that these issues were addressed to conform to the permit requirements, specifically that Vigliotti’s design would preserve natural resources and contribute to public access of recreational spaces.
Mannix said that there will definitely be a public footpath of some kind that leads to these areas, which was part of the requirement for the permit’s approval.
Going forward, Mannix said that the Vigliotti proposal will need additional approvals from both the Inland Wetlands Commission and the PZC again for a regular subdivision permit.
The process of being approved by the Inland Wetlands Commission will include a public hearing, Mannix said, as the development will be considered a “significant activity” due to a new road crossing a creek and possible encroachments on wildlife habitats, among other things.
“One of their biggest concerns will be, ‘What are the potential impacts to the wetlands?’” Mannix said. “Will there be filling? They are not looking to reduce the flow of any water...There are some vernal pools on the property.”
A possible need for detention basins, which protect properties against flooding, could be a concern as well, as these structures can mimic the appearance or function of vernal pools, according to Mannix, which confuse amphibians that depend on the pools for breeding and nourishment.
Mannix said that one of the highlights of the design was the access to walking and hiking paths along the West River.
The open space permit only required a general outline of a project, Mannix said, which allows developers to have “a little assurance” from the town before investing huge amounts of time and money in surveying and designs. Vigliotti now must submit detailed engineering plans to both the Inland Wetlands Commission and the PZC. That likely won’t happen until December or January, Mannix said.
Though both commissions could technically approve fewer lots than the 31 designated in the special permit, Mannix said Vigliotti had expressed that 31 was its “bottom line number” for the development.
Jesse Williams covers Guilford and Madison for Zip06. Email at .