Zoning change opens door for new multifamily housing
WESTPORT — A recently approved text amendment to the town’s zoning regulations could open the door for new multifamily housing in Saugatuck’s two general business districts.
The request, submitted by attorney William Fitzpatrick on behalf of Gault Family Companies, increases the allowable building height in the area from two-and-a-half to three stories, and permits a single building of 20,000 square feet. This comes as the company looks to begin the next phase of its Saugatuck projects.
The Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved the amendment at its Thursday meeting.
“The intent of this proposed amendment is to provide flexibility and design options for construction of multifamily residential housing,” Fitzpatrick said.
Gault intends to provide a site plan for 17 residential units, three of which would be affordable. The proposed units would place people in Saugatuck center, which could help retailers and create a more vibrant neighborhood, Fitzpatrick said.
The company is no stranger to the Saugatuck area, with previous projects including construction of a boardwalk, the opening of a 20-slip marina, a 35-space underground parking garage, and two anchor buildings on the east side of Riverside Avenue, which now house a variety of restaurants and businesses.
“My client is not interested in pursuing a 8-30g proposal,” Fitzpatrick said. “Under these circumstances, my client believes the 20 percent affordability requirement is appropriate, fair and reasonable.”
Commissioner Chip Stephens expressed concern with an additional proposed 50 percent joint parking request, adding it could open the doors to other hurdles with future projects.
“It’s already tough to park down there,” Stephens said. “Allowing that much joint parking is going to be problematic.”
The commission ultimately amended the proposal to remove the 50 percent joint parking after Fitzpatrick said his client did not require the original amount.
“What my client anticipates is if this text amendment is approved they will come in for a special permit site plan application for 17 units, which will only propose to utilize 20 percent parking,” he said.
Commisioner Danielle Dobins said while she was concerned with a “canyon” effect due to building heights, the potential site plan could help create a safer and better-lit environment.
“It would better connect the residential parts of Saugatuck that are a little further away from the commercial areas,” she said.
Carolanne Curry, a resident of Hiawatha Lane Extension, was accepting of the project, despite knowing there could be more traffic.
“I think I can speak for the neighborhood because they’re dealing with a family they know,” she said. “They’re dealing with someone who has a perspective of what Saugatuck Center should look like.”
Curry said the Gault family would also be open to hearing neighbors’ concerns.
“I would rather have the Saugatuck downtown area treated as a community rather than a commodity,” she said. “I think that the Gault family can do this for us.”