John Kimball of Kimball Group wants to buy 16.7 acres of the Marian Heights property at 1428 Monroe Turnpike to preserve the historic castle, which he plans to transform into his family home and professional office with an addition in the back for a garage, as well as building two new houses. He's also proposing an amendment to town zoning regulations to allow a vineyard with a tasting room where bottled wines may be sold.
The Kimball Group has an agreement to purchase property from Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth contingent upon his getting land use approvals for his proposed development. The zoning amendment application was filed through Stone Castle Investments LLC and recently presented to the Planning & Zoning Commission at a Dec. 13 hearing.
Stone Castle Investments LLC is proposing a new section in Article III of Monroe's regulations, Section 301-1170 entitled "Mixed Use Landmark Property Developments" and to amend Article XXIV, Section 117-2402 Minimum Parking Requirements.
The amendment would permit, by special exception, mixed use developments on parcels of at least five acres located on Routes 25 and 111 and if the structure to be occupied was constructed prior to 1960 and is found suitable by the commission.
"This is meant to try to provide a creative way to preserve an historic landmark in town with uses similar to a Home Office District, but different," Kimball told the commission.
Proposed uses include business, professional and financial offices (but not banks), multi-family dwelling units, tasting rooms associated with the vineyard on the property or any combination thereof. During the hearing it was agreed to eliminate the word "business".
Kimball said offices could be for lawyers, accountants, engineering firms and Real Estate firms, for example.
Proposed uses cannot be detrimental to neighboring properties, bad for character or traffic, must be suitably landscaped, and the lot must be a sufficient size for the proposed use.
Kevin Solli, an engineer for the applicant, said the proposed regulation amendment gives the commission "greater flexibility" for allowing mixed uses on what it deems to be historic landmark properties.
A few other properties in town where the amendment could apply, according to Solli is 1380, 1285 and 1271 Monroe Turnpike and the Monroe Food Pantry at 980 Monroe Turnpike.
Promoting Monroe's Architectural Heritage
Solli said he believes the proposed amendment is consistent with the town Plan of Conservation and Development to preserve historically significant structures, retaining stonewalls, barns and maintaining the character of the town.
The setback from the road would be preserved and any additions to an historically significant structure and construction of accessory buildings would be behind the architecturally significant one to maintain the view from the street.
No advertising would be allowed on the property, unless it goes through town regulations.
The proposal says parking a multiple-family dwelling use should be represented by dwelling-units-per-acre rather than bedrooms per acre and allow for shared parking.
Stone Castle Investments proposed one parking space open to the public per 300 square feet of floor area of a vineyard tasting/sales room or 3.33 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet.
A modification would allow for two parking spaces per dwelling unit, so long as an opportunity for sharing exists. Kimball said an applicant should provide a shared uses parking study to show how it could work.
He said a typical shared parking regulation requires analysis of the multiple uses sharing the spaces to demonstrate they either share the same patrons or have peak parking demands at different times.
At the P&Z's Discretion
In a letter to the P&Z on Dec. 4, The Greater Bridgeport Regional Council said it did not find the proposed amendment to be regionally significant, but recommended that the commission "consider adopting performance standards to allow for buffer requirements to protect adjacent residential uses."
The Valley Council of Governments' Regional Planning Commission reviewed the application and found no negative regional impact from the proposal.
During the hearing, Solli and Kimball stressed the fact that any proposed Mixed Use Landmark Property Development would require the approval of a special exception permit.
"It allows mixed use developments, but restricts how it could be accomplished," Kimball said.
Solli said, "The commission has the discretion to approve what it deems appropriate — the ability to say, 'I agree with it' or 'I don't.'"