The Parkside development project on Montowese may be headed back to the town legislature for additional votes or a change to the application, as the applicants, the Branford Housing Authority and Beacon Communities, the developer on the project, take issue with a stipulation in the approval granted last month.
The question is largely over whether or not the towns legislative body, the Representative Town Meeting, needs to sign off on providing access to town property by the developers.
In the approval, it is stipulated that before any construction work can commence, the developers need to acquire a “construction easement or alternative legal instrument” to allow use of town property for staging equipment and temporary parking while widening Sliney Road.
The approval also stipulates that a Certificate of Occupancy can only be granted after, among other things, “evidence of the recording on the Branford Town Clerks land records of an executed Deed Restriction, or equivalent legal instrument approved by the town counsel….prohibiting any building or physical modifications..” in certain designated areas, notably where emergency parking is detailed.
Essentially, the stipulation is that the town issue a Deed Restricting, ensuring that portions of town property can never be developed or used in any other manner.
To acquire this, however, the town charter requires approval by the towns legislative body, the RTM.
The town code reads, in section 73.3, that “No Town agency, Town officer or the Board of Selectmen shall acquire, sell, lease, mortgage, abandon, gift, transfer or encumber in any manner real property of the Town until such action has been approved by a majority vote of the members of the R.T.M.”
A deed restriction preventing any future action on the property would be an encumbrance, and require RTM approval.
But such approval from the RTM is unlikely.
Previously, an approval was contingent on Beacon and the BHA getting RTM approval for a Melrose Road access, which the RTM denied. It is highly likely the RTM would deny such a request in this case as well.
It makes little sense for the RTM to approve any deed restriction for property which may be developed in the future or sold to a private entity.
The makeup of the RTM plays a crucial role here as well. While the Republicans control a majority of the RTM, Democrats on the body have been mixed when it comes to affordable housing applications: they were unanimously against building affordable housing at the former Branford Hills School site, but very in favor of this project in Indian Neck, despite resident opposition.
However, in that Melrose Access vote, the lone Democrat who represents the district, Maryanne Hall, voted against. She is no longer on the RTM.
Also voting no is current state representative Robin Comey, who was on the RTM at the time and running for the state seat being vacated by Lonnie Reed. She won the seat, and is no longer on the RTM.
Attorney Tim Hollister, who represents Beacon Communities, has requested clarification of the stipulation, and the matter will be discussed at this weeks Planning and Zoning Commission. The meeting will by Thursday evening at 7 PM at the Branford Firehouse.