Proposed zoning amendment could allow Trumbull Center updates

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Raymond Rizio, a lawyer representing Trumbull Center LLC, speaks at the Aug. 17, 2022 meeting of the Trumbull Planning and Zoning Commission.

Raymond Rizio, a lawyer representing Trumbull Center LLC, speaks at the Aug. 17, 2022 meeting of the Trumbull Planning and Zoning Commission.

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TRUMBULL — A long-awaited redevelopment could finally be in the works at Trumbull Center, although the proposed upgrades would require a zoning text amendment change from the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Attorney Ray Rizio, representing Trumbull Center LLC, requested such a change at the commission’s Aug. 17 meeting. The change, which the commission spent about 90 minutes discussing, would allow mixed use developments on certain properties before voting to continue the hearing at next month’s meeting. If approved, the amendment could pave the way for a long-discussed project to mix retail and apartments at Trumbull Center.

Rizio described the text as allowing “mixed-use developments on properties greater than five acres with road frontage and direct traffic access to both White Plains Road (Route 127) and Daniels Farm Road.”

Late last year, Rizio came before the commission with a pre-application for a plan to remove two buildings — an old professional building, and the building that used to house Starbucks and other businesses — at 900 White Plains Road, which is part of the Trumbull Center corridor. These buildings would be replaced with a five-story mixed use property, with retail on the first floor and apartments on the upper floors.

At that time, town planner Rob Librandi said the next step in the project would be for the applicant to propose a text amendment to allow residential use in the business commercial zone. Throughout Wednesday’s commission meeting, both Rizio and commission Chairman Fred Garrity made clear that the public hearing wasn’t on whether to approve a specific project, but on whether to approve a text amendment that would allow such a project to happen.

However, the application submitted to the panel included a letter written by Christopher Russo, another lawyer representing Trumbull Center LLC, which details how the wording of the proposed text amendment “specifically targets” Trumbull Center, by restricting its use to properties greater than five acres with road frontage to both White Plains and Daniels Farm roads.

“This restriction ensures multi-family dwellings do not appear in established residential neighborhoods and they are located on properties of a significant enough size to absorb the needs of multi-family dwellings,” the letter reads.

During the meeting, Rizio also presented some drawings of the potential redevelopment of Trumbull Center, and spoke about the positive impact such a project would have on the area.

“What people really want to do is they want to be in Trumbull,” he said. “Older people want to sell their homes. Younger people want to be in a connected area.”

Rizio said offering businesses and apartments in the same area could be “a game changer” for the property, which now has multiple vacant storefronts including one previously occupied by Starbucks, and another that formerly housed Porricelli’s Food Mart. He added that all of the businesses in Trumbull Center that he had spoken to were in favor of the project.

Following Rizio’s presentation, committee members asked a variety of questions about both the text amendment and the possible redevelopment plan. Russo’s letter mentions that the amendment would allow mixed use projects with a height of five stories or 65 feet.

Commission secretary Richard Deecken mentioned that the project that had been discussed for Trumbull Center would include an underground parking garage, and asked if the garage would be included in the five stories, or if it would be in addition to them. Rizio said the underground garage wouldn’t count as one of the five stories.

Multiple commissioners expressed concerns that neighbors of Trumbull Center weren’t specifically notified of the public hearing, though notice of the meeting was posted on the town website and published in area newspapers. James Cordone, one of the town attorneys, said because the meeting involved a text amendment that wasn’t yet being applied to a specific property, notifying the neighbors wasn’t required.

“We are absolutely following the letter of the law with respect to notice,” he said.

But some weren’t satisfied with that explanation, including commission member Tony D’Aquila.

“I am beginning to feel very uncomfortable that we don’t send letters to neighbors,” he said.