Proposed mixed use zone could lead to Trumbull Center apartments

Porricelli's Food Mart on White Plains Road closed in December 2012, leaving the largest retail space in Trumbull Center vacant.

Porricelli's Food Mart on White Plains Road closed in December 2012, leaving the largest retail space in Trumbull Center vacant.

Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

TRUMBULL — For years, Trumbull has debated the future of the Trumbull Center.

A plan to renovate the shopping plaza, which now has multiple vacant storefronts, including one previously occupied by Starbucks, and another that formerly housed Porricelli’s Food Mart, has received support from many of the businesses that currently occupy Trumbull Center. But a majority of residents at last week's Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing spoke out against a proposed zone change that would allow mixed use property, including about 50 apartments, at the site.

"More apartments are the last thing we need," said Cindy Penkoff, vice chairman of the Trumbull Republican Town Committee. "I am for this, but it needs be a plan that works for everyone."

The hearing, which lasted roughly two hours, was on an amendment to a zoning regulation that would permit mixed-use developments on properties greater than five acres with road frontage and direct traffic access to both White Plains Road and Daniels Farm Road. If approved, the change, which first came before the commission in August, could pave the way for a long-discussed project to mix retail and apartments at Trumbull Center.

Last year, Attorney Ray Rizio, representing Trumbull Center LLC, 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 the mixed use property, that would include about 50 apartments.

Most residents who spoke at Wednesday's hearing echoed Penkoff's fears about adding more apartments to town. 

Joe Pifko, another RTC member, implored the commission not to pass the zoning change. He said he was particularly concerned with the size of the potential development, which he said would be inconsistent with the character of downtown.

"I have a a serious problem with a five-story building in downtown Trumbull, where nothing is like that," he said. "It’s going to stand out like a sore thumb."

Throughout the hearing, Rizio and Commission Chair Fred Garrity clarified that what they were discussing wasn't the development itself, but the zoning change that could allow it.

"What we are looking for is a text amendment that allows us to go forward with the conversations people are asking for," Rizio said.

Before the public spoke, commission members were allowed to ask questions about the application for the amendment. Commissioner Tony D’Aquila asked questions for roughly an hour.

One of his requests was for Rizio to show a site conceptual site plan for what the mixed use development might look like. Though Rizio complied, Garrity pointed out that the hearing was about the amendment, not any actual project.

"What we’re talking about here is language to allow a development," Garrity said. At this point, Garrity said, the development itself is "pretend. It's a possibility."

The commission did not vote on the amendment Wednesday, but Garrity said it would likely be on next month's meeting agenda.