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October 20, 2022

Hill complex plans approved as public input debated

RENDERING | CONTRIBUTED A rendering of the apartment complex planned for Davenport and Congress avenues in New Haven's Hill neighborhood.

How does a growing city deal with issues around gentrification and affordability – and when in the development process can concerned residents speak up?

Those were the issues hashed out Wednesday night at the regular meeting of New Haven’s City Plan Commission, tasked with considering a new high-end apartment complex planned for the Hill neighborhood, which it ultimately approved.

At issue was a site plan review for a 194-unit apartment complex planned for property at Davenport and Congress Avenues in the Hill neighborhood. Developer John Lockhart of Catalina Buffalo Holdings LLC is seeking to demolish a cluster of buildings at the site to make way for the five-story complex. The units are planned as mostly market rate, but with 5% set aside as affordable under the city’s new inclusionary zoning rules. 

The site plan was on track for approval when a contentious community meeting caused city staff to reconsider.

At the panel's Sept. 21 meeting, City Plan Director Laura Brown asked for additional resident input on the project after “substantial concerns” about affordability and gentrification were raised at the neighborhood meeting. 

“I do feel that this item warrants additional community engagement around this issue,” Brown said. 

Recent large apartment projects went forward without additional public input, countered Carolyn Kone, attorney for the Hill project’s developers.

“I am concerned, I think this creates a terrible precedent. I don’t know why this particular project was being singled out for any special treatment,” Kone said. 

On Wednesday, Kone told the commission that the proposed Davenport development was “in jeopardy” due to the delays caused by the request for an additional public hearing. 

“We are in an environment with really increasing interest rates, lending sources that are terrified of what's been going on with the site plan application, and sellers who are demanding additional deposits because of the delays,” Kone said. 

The developer, Lockhart, said that his company had only received positive feedback from immediate neighbors of the proposed complex and expressed frustration that his project had been caught up in larger issues around gentrification. 

“I feel somewhat naive at this point, but the assumption was that this committee would give us an impartial and objective review of our project,” Lockhart said.

In the end, commissioners drew on precedent and the limited scope of their powers to vote down an additional public hearing and approve the site plan. 

Commissioner Carl Goldfield said, “While I’m sympathetic to what the people who are questioning in the public sphere are concerned with, it falls outside of our purview.” 

He added, “I still haven’t seen anything raised in anything that I read that deals with the narrow scope of our review for whether this meets the zoning regulations.”

Truck lot plans tabled again

A plan to build a semi-truck parking lot at the Long Wharf Drive site currently home to Sports Haven was tabled again on Wednesday at the request of the applicant, Hardik Parekh of 600 Long Wharf Drive Industrial LLC, based in Queens, N.Y. It was on the city plan commission’s prior monthly agenda and also tabled. 

The truck lot proposal runs counter to a larger city strategy to redevelop the Long Wharf area as a mixed-use district with a residential component. Renewed plans to rezone the district to allow for non-industrial uses prompted a recent moratorium on new permits in the area, but Parekh’s proposal was submitted before the moratorium took effect.

Contact Liese Klein at

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