The Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously voted to deny the special permit use and site plan application for a proposed mixed-use development on Brook Street.
The developer had proposed building the mixed-use project at the rear of 663 Brook St., with 144 housing units and 5,750 square feet of office space.
The applicants felt the plan met and in some areas "exceeded regulations" of the special permit use, including the buffer zone and handicap accessibility. They stated that the mixed-use plan fit the zone requirements and would not affect any businesses in the area.
The commissioners and members of the public, however, disagreed. PZC Chairman Anthony DiLorenzo said he didn't think the housing component in the plan was a good fit for the area.
"And looking at the Brook Street location, it struck me as not an appropriate location for residential. I don't think it is appropriate to have a multi-family building surrounded by businesses."
DiLorenzo stated that all multi-family dwellings in town are in residential zones and “there is a reason for that.”
The developer's lawyer, Timothy Hollister, said the Brook Street location was not only appropriate, but "a desirable location." He added there are "hundreds of thousands of residential units" across the United States in business, industrial, office and commercial zones.
"In planning circles, it is the wave of the future," Hollister said. "This strict separation of residential from everything else is regarded by many planners as a thing of the past."
Commissioner Joseph Kochanek said the PZC has to determine if the proposed plan and permit use would affect "harmony with development."
"You are trying to fit this into somewhere where it doesn't quite fit. I think it's the wrong place. I think it will effect the surrounding properties greatly."
Kochanek said he doesn't believe neighboring businesses, such as Firematic, would benefit from the proposed mixed-use facility. The residential component of the facility could also hinder further business, commercial or industrial development in that area, Kochanek added.
The owner of Firematic, Michael Hanratty, felt his property, which would be surrounded by the proposed development, could depreciate in value because of the mixed-use facility.
Hanratty, who lives next to Firematic, said the surrounding businesses make it difficult to sleep and felt many of the tenants would complain about his operations.
"It will force me to move out of Rocky Hill."
Several commissioners and members of the public felt the applicant should install elevators in the proposed residential buildings.
Hollister said the plan is in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and each of the ground floor units are handicap accessible. Adding elevators, he said, would be a "significant change" to the plan. He added that there are apartments in surrounding area that are three stories and do not have elevators.
"And none of them were approved by this commission after we ceased approving multi-family dwellings," DiLorenzo said passionately. "I would very much like to see an elevator in those buildings."
Hollister argued that by the commission's standards, any structure including a two-story home should have an elevator.
"In a single family home, a household can adapt," DiLorenzo said. He felt tenants would not be able to adapt to living in an apartment, as easily as a home, when faced with a short or long term illness or disability.
Hollister stated landlords are obligated by the Americans with Disabilities Act to allow tenants with a short or long term illness or disability to move if a ground level apartment is available.