By Terry Rogers
On Tuesday, January 19, the Milford Planning Commission approved the Riverwalk Villas project with a vote of five to one. The project is located on Mispillion Street between Columbia and Marshall Streets. The project was recently mentioned at a City Council meeting by Ben Muldrow, whose company created the recently released Downtown Milford Strategic Plan, as a benefit to the downtown area due to its proximity to the Riverwalk, Goat Island and the downtown area. Mr. Muldrow indicated that adding residential units in that area could increase foot traffic into downtown which would also increase business in the area.
“The project consists of four three-story, twelve unit garden apartments for a total of 48 units,” Rob Pierce, City Planner, said. “There is no commercial component associated with the project. There was an application last spring that requested the project be labeled a Planned Residential Use Development (PURD) that included a commercial component, but that application was denied. This was a simple residential site plan within the R-3 zoning designation.”
Riverwalk Villas was presented to the Planning Commission in December 2015, but a decision on the site plan was tabled due to questions from commission members related to sidewalks and street construction. The commission asked Mr. Pierce to provide the developer with suggested improvements that would make the project work better with the surrounding neighborhood.
The project has been met with significant opposition from residents who live in the area as well as owners of commercial properties nearby. Many residents testified at a public hearing in April 2015 that the project would create significant traffic in an area with streets that already had difficulty accommodating multiple vehicles. Sudler and Joan Lofland, who own properties adjacent to the proposed project location, said that the area was on a floodplain and that displaced water may cause flooding in the area. Engineers for the project say that there would be no danger of additional flooding in the area if the project is completed.
The Planning Commission did believe that the project may cause issues with traffic, both vehicle and pedestrian, in the area near the new apartments. In an effort to diminish those issues, Mr. Pierce presented the developer with recommendations for additional offsite street and sidewalk improvements that the developer would be financially responsible to complete. Mispillion Street would be widened by 25 feet and a two-inch mill and overlay the full width from Columbia Street to Marshall Street. An additional right-of-way along Mispillion Street may also be required. The developer must also perform two-inch mill and overlay the full width of Marshall Street from Southeast Front Street to a small, unnamed road in the area.
“The developer would also provide sidewalk and handicap accessible ramp improvements at the intersection of Marshall and MIspillion as well as the intersection of McColley and Mispillion,” Mr. Pierce said. “Parking will be restricted along both sides of Marshall Street from the Southeast Front Street intersection north for 75 feet. Because of the widening of Mispillon Street, utility poles and communication lines may need to be relocated, either moved back or buried.” The developer agreed to all recommendations presented by the city.
City Council will determine if there will be any cost share from the city for any offsite street, sidewalk and electric utility improvements or relocations. The developer must also sign a subdivision agreement prior to final site plan approval. The project will now be presented to Milford City Council for review and approval.