Apartments proposed for Waterford drive-in site

Waterford — A developer is seeking to build a 90-unit income- and age-restricted apartment complex on an 11-acre Boston Post Road lot that formerly held a drive-in theater.

The Planning and Zoning Commission at its meeting Monday officially received a site plan application from Berlin-based Waterford Development Associates LLC. The proposed development would be located at 105 Boston Post Road, adjacent to the Stop and Shop grocery store.

The Boston Post Road lot has been vacant for roughly 30 years, according to Assistant Town Clerk Janet Hanney.

Since the property became vacant, at least four developments have been proposed there.

Waterford Development Manager Cheryl Daniw said the location is ideal because of its proximity to shopping and bus routes. Daniw would take on the role of property manager should the proposal garner all of the required approvals.

"If I have a tenant, I don't want them to be there only one year and then have to leave. I'd like to see them make it their home," she said.

The proposed complex is to be named Victoria Gardens after Daniw's late grandmother, and would be similar to the 84-unit Sage Pond Place in Berlin developed by her company, The Merit Group LLC. Daniw is president of Merit Group and property manager at Sage Pond Place.

Victoria would include a patio, garden and large community room. Like Sage Pond, the one- and two-bedroom apartments at Victoria would be available to those aged 55 and older who meet certain income requirements, and the rent per apartment would be based on a sliding scale.

Daniw said rent on a one-bedroom apartment at Sage Pond can range from $320 to $820 based on income, but she cautioned that the range of rent at Sage Pond is not an indicator of what the rent scale would be at Victoria. She also said it was too early to predict what range of incomes would qualify for housing.

She said she anticipated that Victoria would be more costly to build than Sage Pond, which cost about $10.5 million to construct in 2006.

Victoria would comprise three roughly 28,000-square-foot floors, according to Don Gerwick, principal engineer for Gerwick Mereen LLC. Gerwick Mereen is overseeing civil engineering aspects of the project.

Planning Director Dennis Goderre said last month that he was not sure what the economic impact of the proposed development would be, since that would depend on whether current Waterford residents rented space or new residents moved in from out of town.

The town's 2012 Plan of Preservation, Conservation and Development lists as a secondary priority, "Consider ways to address the need for housing options for an aging population."

One task states, "Determine if there is a need for elderly housing options, especially for those on limited incomes."

Daniw said she was not aware of the plan and that the location was selected purely for the amenities it would offer residents.

Gerwick said Waterford Development already has its wetlands permit. The land permits office said that commission approval is now needed and that no public hearing is necessary.

If the developers succeed in getting approval from the commission, they may apply to the Connecticut Housing and Finance Authority for special tax credits, according to Daniw. She said the pre-construction process would last through the fall and perhaps into next spring.

Carl Sherman, who owned the land in the early 1980s when he was Waterford's second-largest taxpayer, at that time sought to sell the property for development as elderly housing units. The proposal required that the zoning be changed from commercial to residential.

The commission rejected the plan in 1981, but Sherman effectively won the zoning changes through an appeal that was settled out of court in 1982.

In 1986, a proposal to build 94 townhouses on the site was presented to the commission.

Essex-based developer Henry Resnikoff proposed a 74-unit condominium complex on the site in 2004, when his firm, Willow Tree LLC, owned the property. In 2011, Willow Tree transferred the property to its current owner, ARJO LLC of Old Lyme, which includes members Arlene and Joy Sherman.

Essex-based development company Fenger Hollow LLC proposed an 80-unit condominium complex on the property in 2005.


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