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Dialogue continues over housing development


July 3, 2013
<b>A map of the proposed apartment complex on Mayfield Drive in Enfield, Conn., which runs parallel to Longmeadow's Maple Road. Some residents and town officials have concerns about traffic on Connecticut Route 192 and Maple Road as a result of the project.</b> <br>Reminder Publications submitted photo

A map of the proposed apartment complex on Mayfield Drive in Enfield, Conn., which runs parallel to Longmeadow's Maple Road. Some residents and town officials have concerns about traffic on Connecticut Route 192 and Maple Road as a result of the project.
Reminder Publications submitted photo

By Chris Maza

chrism@thereminder.com

LONGMEADOW — Town officials will continue to monitor the situation regarding a large apartment complex proposed for Enfield, Conn., near the Longmeadow border, but it remains unclear what, if any, recourse the town would have.

The development on Mayfield Drive off of North Maple Street/Connecticut Route 192, which becomes Shaker Road in Massachusetts, has not yet been approved for a special permit that would allow them to start building. A June 20 public hearing was continued and will resume on July 11.

Town Manager Stephen Crane told the Board of Selectmen at its July 1 meeting that he has been in discussions with officials in Enfield and planned to attend the July 11 continuation.

"I have spoken with the Enfield Town Planner and we're keeping the dialogue open," he said. "I'm not sure what authority we have to do anything about it."

The 340 unit multi-family housing development would consist of 34 apartment buildings, a clubhouse and fitness center with a pool, a maintenance building and a central mail pick-up building. Plans also include approximately 23.7 acres of preserved open space to the south as well as a 50-foot buffer with trees and a berm that would separate the complex from properties on Maple Road.

Planning Board Chair Walter Gunn told Reminder Publications prior to the Select Board meeting that in conversations with José Giner, director of Planning and Development in Enfield, the complex would be comprised of apartments with a cost of $1,000 per month with a focus on attracting young professionals.

He said the development would be similar to The Mansions at Hockanum Crossing, located in Vernon, Conn., which consist of one- and two-bedroom apartments. According to Internet listings, rent prices at that development range from $1,045 to $1,695.

Crane said he had received a copy of the plans, including a traffic study that he said revealed that 70 percent of the traffic from the apartment complex would head north on Route 192 into Longmeadow.

"It would result in approximately 170 more cars in the morning and 140 more cars in the evening," he said, pointing out that those figures were for peak driving hours.

Selectman Mark Gold pointed out that while there are models that are used to create these studies, there was no way to determine which way traffic would be heading until it was there.

"They have no clue who is moving in there, so there's no way they could know where they would be going," he said.

Crane also called the proposal "pretty densely developed," however, Gunn has a differing opinion, pointing out that the proposal calls for utilizing only half of Enfield's multi-family housing development (MFHD) cap.

According to the planning analysis for the project conducted by J.R. Russo & Associates LLC, "The density provisions of the MFHD zone in the Enfield Zoning Regulations could permit a total of 684 apartment units on the 70 acres of land. However, the applicant is proposing a total of 340 units, 50 percent less than permitted by the regulations."

Elayne Ayan, a resident of Maple Road, voiced concerns regarding the project and the traffic problems that would be created in Longmeadow by the existence of such a large development in Enfield.

"I am not opposed to the project; I am concerned about the size," she said. "The majority of people will commute north onto [Route] 192 and into Longmeadow."

Ayan said she attended the June 20 hearing and voiced her concerns.

"The Town Planner said it's not their problem; that's Longmeadow's problem," she said.

Selectman Paul Santaniello said short of placing a patrol car on Maple Road in an attempt to deter commuters from using the road as a through-way to Interstate 91, he didn't see much the town could do to mitigate any traffic problems.

"The town has suffered because of the East Longmeadow industrial park for years and we haven't been able to do anything about that," he said. "If I lived there [on Maple Road], I'd be concerned, too."

Gunn said he has also spoken with Connecticut's Capitol Regional Council of Governments and, because of recent efforts to improve relations across the border as part of Knowledge Corridor initiatives, that he believed the town's concerns would be taken into consideration.

He said his stance that the project would not have a major impact on Longmeadow was for the most part unchanged, though he acknowledged that traffic could be a concern.

"Regarding a traffic study, I can check with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission to see if we have any recourse to review it," he said, adding that the departments of transportation for the respective states may have some part in the process because the proposed project is located off of an interstate road.

With regard to the project on the whole, he said it was his belief the town is fortunate that a development such as the one being proposed was being considered.

"They could put anything there. They could have put low income housing there, but they didn't," he said. "It appears this is going to be a quiet facility."

He added he still felt it could be a benefit to the town by strengthening the commercial businesses on Maple and Shaker roads.

Crane also pointed out that projects have been proposed on that site three times and none of them have come to fruition, and just because a project is in the planning stages, it doesn't mean it is a foregone conclusion that it will be completed.

Most recently that land was approved for a 159-unit assisted living development.

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