West Haven zoning board OKs housing plans for Savin Rock Plaza

WEST HAVEN — A plan to develop 11 housing units atop retail space in the Savin Rock Plaza has received two crucial approvals from the Planning and Zoning Commission.

DeLaurentis Management Corp., which purchased the shoreline strip mall at 200-272 Captain Thomas Blvd. in 2021, is seeking to convert office space above one of the buildings on that lot in 11 housing units.

The council approved an amendment to the zoning regulations of its Shoreline Retail/Residential Design district to allow for up to 11 dwelling units in a development in the zone, as well as a change in the map, so that the parkade would be redesignated as being in a SRR zone.

As a result of the change, housing units now will be permitted at the site of the plaza, and whereas the previously allowable maximum was eight units, the developer can now develop 11 units on the site. According to plans obtained by the Register, the developer intends to convert office space above 200 Captain Thomas Blvd., a retail building that includes Savin Rock Surf Shop as a tenant, into six studio apartments and five one-bedroom apartments. According to the plans, the studio apartments would be between 535 and 635 square feet and four of the one-bedroom apartments would be 700 square feet while a fifth would be 990 square feet.

“We’re not making any exterior changes to the footprint,” said DeLaurentis.

Commissioner John Biancur expressed reservations about some parts of the plans: he said that increasing the maximum allowable units in the zone from eight to 11 would constitute an increase of more than 25 percent, and said he would want any mixed-use developments to require a special permit — which would necessitate further study before implementing any changes.

Attorney Kevin Curseaden, who represented the developer before the commission, said that if the cap on units existed to control the allowable lot area per residential unit, then the Savin Rock Plaza proposal would not have any impact on those dimensions.

“The density ratio isn’t changing, just the allowable number of units,” he said.

Curseaden said the zoning ordinances governing density would control for any issues presented by increasing the allowable number of units on a lot in an SRR zone.

Planning Director Chris Soto advised the commission that no application might be perfectly suited to the city’s Plan of Conservation and Development, and they should consider projects that are not “egregiously offensive” to the plan.

“It’s feasible multiple parcels can benefit from a higher number of units without having to go the route of variances,” he said. “It’s not such a hefty jump.”

Resident Kathie Hebert was the only member of the public to testify on the proposed changes.

“I think it would be a pretty cool idea,” she said. “I’d live down there. It’s close to the beach and shopping.”

Chairwoman Kathy Hendricks said she agreed.

“I think if there’s enough space to hit 15, its OK to do 15 units,” she said.

Hendricks said that if the city wants to create mixed-use developments, it needs to make doing so “attractive” to developers.

“We have a hard enough time convincing people in this city to do mixed-use, to accept mixed-use,” she said. “All of our research tells us that’s the future and we need to not make it so difficult for people to do.”

Biancur’s motion to amend the language of the zoning regulation amendment to require special permits failed, with only Biancur voting in favor. The other four voting commissioners voted to approve the language as proposed to increase the allowable number of residential units in an SRR zone before voting to amend the map so that the Savin Rock Plaza would be in an SRR zone.

“Recognizing the condition of that parcel as it exists today, based on the fact it was limited in is use all this time, I think is a good indicator of a lost opportunity,” Hendricks said. “Personally, I think it’s long overdue.”


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