Gateway developers react to the need for more housing

East Lyme — The developers of Gateway Commons said that with demand for housing remaining strong, they plan to go ahead with adding 120 apartments to the 280 units they have built.

The developers told the Zoning Commission last week that the 280 apartments are 95 percent occupied and the developers are ready to move to the second residential phase of the project.

Attorney Theodore Harris, who represents the developers, said Gateway is bringing many people to town who hadn't lived here before. He said many of the development's residents are millennials who want something nice and affordable but don't want to commit to a house at this stage of their life. He gave as an example Electric Boat engineers who don't know how long they will be in the area.

Gateway has become the top taxpayer in town, he said.

When asked by a commission member how many schoolchildren live at Gateway, Harris estimated about 30 to 35 children live there, but said they are not all new to the East Lyme school system.

Simon Konover of West Hartford and KGI Properties of Providence received approval in 2008 for their master development plan for Gateway Commons, a planned development on approximately 200 acres by Interstate 95 south, with a residential and a commercial phase. The plan allowed a residential phase near Exit 73, and 425,000 square feet of retail, including one big-box anchor store and five smaller “junior anchor stores,” for the commercial phase near Exit 74.

While the project didn’t move forward during the recession, the developers several years ago noticed a demand for housing in the market, Harris said.

The developers have built 280 units for the residential phase, after first gaining approval in 2013 from the Zoning Commission for a site plan. The developers also received approval to revise the master development plan to allow for a total of 400 units, instead of just 280.

They said they are planning to ask for a change to the master development plan and, if it is approved, then will submit a site plan for the 120 units.

The developers would need approval from both the Inland Wetlands Agency and the Zoning Commission for the site plan, according to Zoning Official Bill Mulholland.

The developers plan to prepare an application to the Zoning Commission, likely for November, in which they are seeking to eliminate the text amendment to the master development plan that requires them to build a portion of East Society Road, east of the development's second roundabout through a bridge over the Pattagansett River, as a condition of the town granting certificates of occupancy for the 120 apartments, Newton C. Brainard, vice president at Simon Konover, said by email. The building of that portion of the road would instead be part of a later phase of the development.

“Applying it to future development is more representative of a rational apportionment of the infrastructure costs among the various phases of the Gateway District Development,” Brainard said.

The developers are continuing to work on state and federal permitting for interim roadway improvements — interim Exit 74 ramps, an access road, and improvements to Route 161 required by the Office of the State Traffic Administration — to bring a Costco as the anchor store for the commercial part of the development, Brainard said.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Transportation is planning its own project that calls for a complete redesign of the I-95 Exit 74 interchange, the widening of I-95 in the vicinity to allow for a potential third lane in the future, and improvements to Route 161. Construction on that project is slated to begin in the spring of 2021 and be completed in the fall of 2024.

k.drelich@theday.com

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