Plans revived for affordable housing complex at former Edgerton School site

New London — An agreement to end a pending lawsuit against the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission has revived plans for a controversial affordable housing complex off Colman Street.

The commission last week approved a stipulated judgment that would allow for construction of 72 housing units at 120 Cedar Grove Avenue, the site of the former Edgerton School.

It would end a lawsuit filed by attorney Mathew Greene, who sought to overturn a November rejection of an application to alter the zoning regulations and allow residential development on the former school property and other commercially zoned properties bordering Colman Street.

Greene represents F.W. Edgerton LLC, which, as part of a partnership with the New London Housing Authority, bought the Edgerton property last year and proposed a 124-unit development as a replacement for the aging federally subsidized Thames River Apartments on Crystal Avenue. As the result of a more than decade-old class-action lawsuit by Thames River Apartments residents who complain of unsafe and unsanitary conditions, the housing authority is bound by a court order to find replacement homes for the residents.  

The stipulated judgment approved by the commission in a 5-2 vote on Thursday limits the proposed development to 72 units and requires it to meet zoning regulations in the city’s R-3, or multi-family medium density residential district. The property is part of the C-2 commercial zone, which does not allow for housing developments.

Greene said the proposed settlement, which must yet be approved by a judge in the case pending in New London Superior Court, is a compromise and reduces the size of the development to alleviate some of the concerns of commission members and residents.

The three major concerns voiced at a series of public hearings focused on the density of a 124-unit development on a 3.3-acre parcel, the loosening of parking requirements and the potential for portions of the city’s major commercial district to be converted into housing.

“I think the best way to find a resolution is to listen to what the other side is saying. These three things kept resonating,” Greene said. “We listened to all of the comments of the neighbors. We heard over and over again it’s too dense. Now I don’t think they can make that argument.”

The proposed agreement, presented to the commission by city attorney Jeffrey Londregan, stipulates that the development will not have entrances or exits on Colman Street. It limits the development to the Edgerton property and three adjoining parcels, one owned by F.W. Edgerton and two more that it has options on.

The agreement also stipulates that at the request of the city the owners will share up to 20 parking spaces for visitors to the adjacent Veterans Field. The proposed complex would have about 162 spaces.

Greene said the provision for shared parking will help get cars off the street when events are held at Veterans Field, which is being renovated.

Opposition to the initial plans calling for 124 units was consistent from neighbors of the property since F.W. Edgerton first went public with the concept.

Katherine Goulart, who led a petition drive against the City Council’s lifting of deed restrictions at the property, said the recent vote by the commission was disappointing.

“I think that the appearance is that the concerns have been addressed. But I don’t believe the actual concerns have been addressed. It seems an awful lot like spot zoning,” Goulart said. “I would be interested to see if a judge sees that.”

Goulart, who lives on Dow Street and in close proximity to the proposed development, said she thought the city had a strong position in the suit filed by Greene, which alleges various improprieties by the commission in coming to its decision.

“In my opinion Greene twisted P&Z’s arm to get what they wanted,” Goulart said.

F.W. Edgerton must still seek site plan approval and obtain a special permit from the commission to move forward with the plans. A judge must also sign off on the proposed agreement. A court date has not been scheduled for a hearing.

Greene said he expects public input will be considered as F.W. Edgerton develops plans for the development, which he expects to be submitted by August.

g.smith@theday.com

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