'It's a slow roll': With development impact uncertain, Trumbull extends moratorium on apartments

TRUMBULL — What was originally a one-year moratorium on high-density housing in town will extend into a third year following a unanimous vote of the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Commissioners originally approved a one-year moratorium in January 2019 to assess the impact on town schools and services of several developments that had been approved in relatively short order. Of those, only the Ten Trumbull complex on Oakview Drive has begun accepting tenants, and is only partially occupied.

The panel extended the moratorium for one year in January 2020 because the effect on the town was not clear since the apartments were still either unfinished or on the drawing board.

“One of the reasons for this moratorium was to hold off until the impact of the approved developments could be measured against the town’s support structure,” chairman Fred Garrity said.

Rina Bakalar, the town’s director of economic and community development, said there had not been enough time to make any meaningful assessment of the apartments’ impact on the town.

“Ten Trumbull has significant occupancy and we have been monitoring the impact on public safety and school-age children, but it’s not complete yet, and none of the other developments is occupied or are ready to have folks moving in until at least the spring,” she said.

Another luxury apartment complex, Woodside Trumbull, located on Reservoir Drive, a half-mile from Ten Trumbull, is expected to begin leasing units in January but will not be ready for tenants to move in until at least the spring, Bakalar said.

Other apartment complexes planned for the town include River Valley Retirement Community located on Oakview Drive, the Residences at Main at the Westfield Trumbull mall property, and the Rivers Edge mixed senior housing complex at the former United Healthcare complex on Route 111.

Bakalar said the River Valley complex has a “February-ish” timetable to receive its certificate of occupancy.

“They’ve been holding informational sessions, but there’s been no residents moving in,” she said.

Commissioner Tony D’Aquila was dissatisfied with that explanation, and questioned why more details were not available.

“I have heard nothing,” he said.

Bakalar said the information D’Aquila sought does not exist right now. Since the complexes, with the exception of Ten Trumbull, are not occupied, the town had no way to measure the effect the occupants would have on Trumbull.

“We’re monitoring the enrollment of school-aged children at Ten Trumbull,” she said.

For comparison, when Ten Trumbull was approved in 2017, officials projected there would be 16 school-aged children in the complex’s 202 one- and two-bedroom units. Officials for the Residences at Main, a 260-unit complex, estimated that development would add 27 students to the Trumbull schools.

“The information we need could literally be years away,” Garrity said. “You’re looking for real data, and real data takes time to accumulate and analyze.”

D’Aquila pointed out that the slow accumulation of data could mean the town would continue renewing its moratorium indefinitely.

“We could wait decades, will we hold a moratorium all those years?” he asked. “How does everybody else do it?”

Garrity said other communities have handled it the same way as Trumbull.

“It’s a slow roll, you take the steps and measure the impact,” he said. “Nobody’s preventing the data from coming. You just have to wait until the data’s created.”

deng@trumbulltimes.com