Plans approved for apartments, retail in Southington

Planners, developers and area residents continued to debate the traffic impact of plans to build 255 apartments, along with retail space and a clubhouse on West Street, but the Planning & Zoning Commission ultimately approved the development by a unanimous vote late Tuesday night.

Neighbors are concerned the increase in housing will result in unbearable traffic, while developers of the proposed complex said their improvements to the West Street and Curtiss Street intersection will keep things functioning well.

Texas-based developer, Anthony Properties, is proposing 255 apartments, 17,000 square feet of retail space and a clubhouse on 41 acres along West Street. It would be accessed via Curtiss Street. Town leaders estimated the project will cost about $100 million.

A traffic study presented by the developers said the project would add about 225 cars to the road during peak hours each day. Area residents questioned those numbers, saying it’d likely be more.

“For me, 225 is a good number for them, but not for us,” said Stan Slipski, a Melcon Drive resident. He expected the project to add more than 300 cars during peak hours.

Anthony Properties officials including development vice president Brian Shiu, attended Tuesday’s meeting. They defended the traffic study, saying it was conducted following industry standards.

The study concluded nearly all the residents of the proposed development would turn onto West Street for their travels. Residents questioned the impact of traffic to other roads and voiced concerns about problems elsewhere.

Francis Pickering, a Panthorn Trail resident, said traffic problems would be increased on West Street with the approval of the 255 apartments.

“The (developer’s) traffic study is focused on the intersection adjacent to the property but isn’t looking at the second order impacts,” he said. “This is going to deteriorate access to businesses and residences in this area (of West Street).”

Other criticisms of the project were more broad. Rick Hutton, a Spring Hill Road resident, said the town has been spending money buying development rights to prevent more houses from being built. He questioned why the town would now approve 255 apartments off West Street.

“Was this just a waste of our money? Are those efforts negated by this one project?” Hutton said.

Planning commissioners told audience members Tuesday that they were bound to follow Southington’s regulations and can’t take into consideration other projects or town decisions.

“We cannot consider anything other than what’s been put in front of us,” said Peter Santago, a commission member. “Legally we can’t take that into consideration.”

In previous meetings Shiu had offered to set aside land on the property for a right-hand turn lane from Curtiss Street to West Street. On Tuesday, he agreed to build that as part of the project rather than wait until it’s needed.

“I hear the concerns of the community and the commission as well about the traffic,” he said.

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