Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Proposed condos for downtown Rockville to perch on ledge

By Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
Wednesday, April 9, 2008

VERNON — A developer who wants to build condominiums on a hill overlooking downtown Rockville could find his project toppled off a cliff by neighbors angry over the plan.

Lee & Lamont Realty are seeking a zone change for 15.8 acres of interior land on ledge above the Amerbelle textile mill with the intention of building single-family attached condos.

But the project will greatly affect landowners already there, residents say, as there is no real access to the site located literally in their backyards. The project is not consistent with the town’s plan of development, and major changes to the topography will also cause environmental issues for the homes below, they say.

Residents would rather keep the area to the rear of their homes as open space.

The property is bordered by houses on East Main Street to the south, Pleasant and Ann streets to the west, Lawrence Street to the north, and Snipsic Street at the east, and is zoned for a subdivision.

Len Jacobs, lawyer for the realty company, says because of zoning requirements for a subdivision and geological features of the site — ledges of bedrock, areas of wetlands, and steep slopes — single-family houses won’t work on the site as more room would be needed.

But a zone change from subdivision to Planned Neighborhood Development, which allows for attached multifamily units that can fit on a smaller parcel, would allow the property owner to utilize his land.

“The principle of good zoning is that every piece of property should have a legitimate use,” Jacobs said, adding: “This is the only use.

“I think it will produce a viable neighborhood in the Rockville area with people who’ll hopefully shop locally downtown,” he said.

Dale Roberson, lawyer for 33 Snipsic St. resident Mark Kalina, disagrees, saying, “High density multifamily housing, regardless of its form, would be undesirable.”

Building on the site would require leveling the hilltop, deforestation of the dense woods, and blasting and drilling of the ledge, which would destroy the ecosystem and potentially damage the foundations of existing homes, Roberson said.

And once built, more problems would ensue for neighbors at lower elevations who would have to deal with significant drainage and water runoff, he added.

“A condo complex would completely overwhelm the area,” Roberson said. “The legitimate use is to maintain it as open space.”

The Planning and Zoning Commission wants to see proof that the landowner at the end of Pleasant Street has granted easement rights to the developer so they can gain access to the interior property.

A public hearing on the application will take place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 17, at the senior center.

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