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Strong Opinions On Both Sides

MILFORD, CT — If meetings were held face-to-face then City Hall would be packed on Tuesday night (Sept. 1) for the Planning and Zoning Board meeting to discuss a mixed-use development for the former Smith Funeral Home site in downtown Milford.

But public meetings are held on Zoom right now due to COVID-19 so you’ll want to ensure your computer or phone is well charged as this meeting could go a very, very long time.

Metro Star LLC’s proposal for the former Smith Funeral Home site at 125-135 Broad Street has led to a lot of reaction both in support and against the application.

The site is currently occupied by the former Smith funeral home consisting of two buildings, both of which are to remain, according to documents filed with the city.

The smaller building will be converted to retail space and the larger will be converted to a mixed-use building with commercial space on the first floor and residential units on the second floor.

Three additional mixed-use buildings will be constructed. Once completed, the development will include 77 residential units and approximately 11,170 square feet of commercial space.

The specific tenants of the commercial space have not been identified but are thought to be largely office uses. Site access will be provided via two new driveways at North Broad Street and up to two driveways at High Street just south of the train tracks, both of which already exist, according to documents filed with the city of Milford’s Planning and Zoning Board

(Details on the meeting and how to participate. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. Sept. 1 and you can pre-register for the public hearing by clicking here. Virtual/Telephonic Meeting Dial In number: 1 943-740-8099 and the Meeting ID: 943 740 8099; If prompted for a Password: 470336 or Computer Access: https://zoom.us/j/9437408099).

When news of the project got out, it led to some strong opposition from residents who expressed concerns that the city and the downtown area are being overdeveloped.

The project did not need to go to a public hearing but zoning members asked the city attorney’s office to render a legal opinion on whether one could be held. The city attorney’s office concluded that a public hearing can be held under specific conditions including the fact that a decision must be rendered on the plans quickly. The PZB must vote on the project by Sept. 23.

The PZB has received dozens and dozens of letters both in support and against the plans.

Here is a sampling of three letters in support and three letter in opposition:

Letters of support:

1. I wanted to write on behalf of Downtown Milford and the newest proposed project Metro on Broad. I have lived in Milford for 18 years now and the Downtown area is part of what originally attracted me to this area. The first restaurant we went to when searching for a home was Rainbow Gardens. We immediately loved the charm and found the people very welcoming. I recently lived downtown at the Anchorage in a rental for a year and really got the full affect of downtown living.

I loved everything about it, from the small businesses, the great restaurants, the concerts,
the fairs on the green and much more. During Covid it has been sad to see small businesses and restaurants take a hit and I think if we don’t move forward with projects like this it will continue to decline. Milford is such a great New England town and I would hate for it to lose the reason people move here. I fully support this project. Thank you, Debbie McCall

2. The City of Milford has had a long-term relationship with Metro Star, and in turn they have helped reshape our downtown into an appealing and bustling epi-enter, while retaining its New England charm and respecting its history

Many might argue that we have seen too much development, but from what I have seen, Metro Star has taken every precaution to set-back these recent developments through appropriate design, aesthetic, and placement within an historic district. The people who desire to live downtown, do so because they want the ease, beauty and walkability our downtown gives them – complete with dining options, shops and other amenities, such as an active harbor, offered nowhere else. They can also access public transportation and be in New Haven or New York with ease, not having to drive or park anywhere.

It is our downtown that is the draw. No developer in their right mind would want to overdevelop and lose that charm and beauty. It is a major selling point for Metro Star and to their tenants. And they have shown Milford that respect.

This design and plan will bring more attention to the historic Simon Lake home, as more people will have access to it and its history. History is also a huge tourism draw. The apartments will be out of sight in an area that had been forgotten and neglected for a long time. The buildings that were along the tracks (most agree were part of Simon Lake’s labs) were beyond salvaging. Yet their unique roof design will live on, sharing yet another part of the story of Milford’s heritage.

Change can be a difficult pill to swallow, but I feel confident that Metro Star will continue to respect and embrace the “look” of Milford; our uniqueness, beauty and history. Paige Miglio, Executive Director, Milford Arts Council and Chairman Board of Directors, Milford Regional Chamber of Commerce.

3. I am writing (to) you in regards to the new proposed project at the old smith funeral home. I would like to express my approval of the project. I believe this type of project is perfect for Milford downtown.

As an owner of a business downtown I believe mixed use housing is the (life) blood of businesses downtown. I … also live in Milford and think it is a plus to our downtown area. William da Silva, SBC Restaurants and Breweries.

Letters of opposition:

1. To All Concerned: Please read this in its entirely. I realize it’s long, but you owe it to the citizens of this town to review each and every piece of correspondence you receive before making a final decision on the Smith Funeral Home property at 125-135 North Broad Street.

I wish I could say “I don’t believe it,” but I have seen Milford go down this road WAY too many times recently. Still, I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t speak up and add my voice to those who find this potential action unacceptable, yet again. You bet I’m against this proposal!

I have been a Milford resident all my life and expect to remain so for the rest of it. But I have to say, I am not happy about having to confront decisions like this on what has turned into a routine basis. I have watched too many historic properties become compromised and/or destroyed in Milford – and have joined in the fight to stop them. I often wonder if those on Planning and Zoning and in other city offices just take the “easy” way out by agreeing with all of these housing/retail developments without a second thought.

It certainly appears that way. Your reputation precedes you, including scheduling meetings at the last minute and/or changing them so the general populace of Milford does not know about them–and it is not becoming.

I have spent a fair portion of “Covid quarantine” taking walks around various parts of Milford and noting again what a pretty town I – and we – are blessed to live in. And then I pass by some monstrosity that has been built where a historic house or building once stood or one that is being threatened. I have also walked and driven around some nearby towns that have a much higher ratio of keeping their historic buildings intact and respecting their history. I can’t help but mourn and berate those who made such choices here in Milford.

So, now our town is under “fire” again. Our beautiful downtown, where so many people come to walk and enjoy the feeling of “New England.” The Smith Funeral property has a long and illustrious history, including the fact that it used to be the home of Simon Lake – one of Milford’s most famous citizens. The house is beautiful architecturally, and the surrounding area serves to enhance the location.

If this plan is pushed forward, that grand house’s aesthetic will be forever compromised with the removal of the side and rear port cocheres and other details and overwhelmed by the new buildings surrounding it, one of which will be practically on top of it. The grounds will become parking lots — more black asphalt taking over our picturesque town, replacing the greenery that shields much of the current parking lot from view. Not to mention the parking and traffic nightmare that will be created. Even more residents, customers, and commuters all vying for access to the streets around the Green. It is already an extremely dense area for traffic – it will only get worse.

Milford is lucky to have a large number of visitors and residents who enjoy walking along the Green. With the large amount of added vehicular traffic, access will be sharply curtailed and the pleasant aspect of this will disappear.

There are any number of vacant or vacated strip malls and store fronts in Milford that are sorely in need of an attractive complex like this. The old Shop Rite plaza, several areas along the Post Road, that eyesore that stands on the other side of the railroad tracks where 7-11 used to be, and so on. Not to mention the fact that with the current financial climate, we could well see other areas like the Post Mall losing even more tenants than they already have and possibly being forced to close. People have lost their jobs and may not get them back; if they are lucky enough to get new jobs, it may not be for some time.

What kind of information was been obtained prior to allowing this project to proceed to assure citizens that these “dwellings” and storefronts will be utilized quickly, and that they are needed and affordable to the clientele we have in Milford? On a very quick look on only one website, Milford has 171 apartments currently available for rent. Of those, 60 of the 66-apartment facility at 92-94 Plains Road, built by the same MetroStar, are available. Do I have to mention that that average sucks? That is likely not everything available, either, and I didn’t include houses for rent in my brief search. So, why exactly, do we need to add another large amount to sit vacant? We certainly don’t need any additional storefronts to sit vacant, either.

It seems to me that Milford has already got more space to fill than it can handle. And we don’t need to make more by losing our beautiful downtown area, as well as compromising ANOTHER historic property. Speaking of which, the Simon Lake Laboratory was being considered for the State Register of Historic Properties; it has now been torn down in anticipation of this project, and we have lost yet another piece of Milford’s history.

I cannot tell you how humiliated I am that my hometown government feels the need to continue to allow pieces of our past to disappear while allowing developers to profit for no good reason. I point my finger at all of you, but particularly at the Planning and Zoning Board personnel who continually show they care nothing about Milford time and time again. You should be ashamed of yourselves. Sincerely yours, Allison Britting.

2. As a relatively new resident of Milford I was shocked to see the scope of the proposed development that The Metro 135 llc is proposing. Traffic is bad enough in downtown Milford( especially during the summer) This is an “off year” because of COVID 19 but the crowds will be back. Speaking as a transplant from NYC I fell in love with Milford precisely because you had managed to maintain a small town feel around your historic green. The Little City with the Big Heart” If this goes thru as is, it will look like “ The Little City that Sold It’s Soul”.

I understand that things change, but this development is not considering how this will impact all of downtown. the train commuters, the pedestrians, the traffic, the visitors. Milford is a destination precisely because of it’s perceived quaintness. As far as I can tell from the 3D rendering whatever space is not taken up by apartments is a parking lot (and just exactly where is the rest of the required parking for this project supposed to come?)

There is not one attempt that I can see to consider anything but cramming as many apartments as possible to give people the luxury of living butted up against the train station with commuters arriving in their cars early in the morning to hope to get a parking spot (which there will be far fewer of) and the opportunity of watching the commuters get on and off the trains. And where are the children going to play? Did they even consider the needs of their residents children?

There is a reason this space was used mostly for parking cars and sheds If folks wanted to live
on top of each other near a train track where the air is fouled with car exhaust trapped between
the train tracks and your nice new three story wall of a building, they could probably do it closer to Stamford or NYC and shorten their commute. Respectfully, Elizabeth Rake

3. Please don’t let this apartment plan go through. Milford is becoming so over developed. The addition of these apartments will add to the congested traffic flow downtown as well as changing the appearance to our beautiful downtown area and the historic house that will be dwarfed by this structure behind it.

How many more apartments do we need in Milford? With all the 8-30G apartments that have gone up all over town and the recent ones built off plains road…does Milford really need more apartments?

I am so disheartened with the future plans for our city. (Not to mention the large building going in on River St. across from St. Peter’s Church)

Please listen to the residents of Milford and not to the builders who are just looking to make money for their own pockets. Thank you for your time. Sincerely, Diane R. Gendreau

>>You can read all of the dozens of letters the city has received on this topic here.” class=”link rapid-noclick-resp”>>>>You can read all of the dozens of letters the city has received on this topic here.

This article originally appeared on the Milford Patch