Citizens Push Town Council to Table Center School Vote

Fierce Outcry Over Development

By Rachel Rusnak

After an outpouring of citizen feedback at Monday night’s Public Forum, the Town Council voted to table a decision on the Center School proposals currently up for review.

The most recent round of Request for Proposals (RFPs) resulted in a recommendation from the Stratford Redevelopment Agency (RDA) to move forward with the Spirit Kali-Nagy proposal for “Sutton Place,” which includes 160 residential units and 308 parking spaces on the 3.6-acre parcel. The RDA preferred the Spirit option over the Romano proposal for 154 units and 265 parking spaces.

In light of the updated tax abatement schedule passed by the Town Council in March, both finalists resubmitted financial proposals to reflect the revised ordinance, which reduced tax abatement from 10 years to 6 years. As a result, Romano increased its purchase price from the original $1,540,000 to $1,694,000, despite what will be an increase in taxes for developers. Meanwhile, Spirit reduced its offer price from $1,625,000 to $550,000 in light of the reduced tax abatement.

Neither proposal appeared to sit well with the residents in attendance on Monday evening, who gave public comment for nearly 90 minutes in opposition to the proposals.

Only the developers, representing attorneys, and a member of the RDA spoke positively of the developments. Impassioned residents decried the proposals as “ridiculous” and “outrageous,” while others chastised Town leadership for anointing developments that would not pass muster in the North End.

A common sentiment from residents who spoke reflected a perception that the Town was disregarding the neighborhood. Residents identified existing traffic and environmental issues, the current construction of multiple high-density developments crowding into the historic district, and a lack of areas of recreation and open space in the area as problematic.

The Town is able to locate so many new developments in the historic district due to the Transit Oriented District (TOD) overlay, created in 2015. Several residents argued on Monday evening that the TOD itself is outdated and should be revised or abandoned before any new proposals are accepted, or Town land is sold.

Residents also noted that the timing of the vote seemed disingenuous, with new proposals shared only days before the meeting and scheduled for a time when many residents are on vacation. Since the vote has only been delayed, it is sure to grace the agenda of Stratford’s Town Council in the coming months. We’ll keep you posted.

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