May 27, 2023 - by Nick Sambides, Staff writer, Milford Mirror - Rachel Merva [or All In for Milford] loves the idea of allowing more than just commercial or retail offerings at the Connecticut Post Mall.
Robbie Silver, an avid walker of city streets, wants the city to do more to safeguard pedestrians' safety. And Michele Kramer, a fan of Milford's history, wants historic preservation closer to the top of the list of things developers must consider when they seek city permits.
The three were among a half-dozen residents who spoke in mostly favorable terms of the latest draft of Milford's 2032 Draft Plan of Conservation and Development at a third and final Planning and Zoning Board public hearing on Wednesday.
The 80-page report is not a rigid set of laws, but rather a vision that, if approved, city leaders will use as guideposts to shape zoning regulations, policy and funding decisions regarding "Milford's physical form, economic and social health, and quality of life" for the next 10 years, according to its preamble.
Connecticut law requires plans of Conservation and Development to be updated every 10 years. Milford's plan was last revised in 2012. A zoning board subcommittee and a consultant hired to help shape the report handed it in more than a month ago. Residents critiqued it in hearings held on May 10 and May 17.
Nobody speaking during the latest meeting, which was held online, panned the report in totality. The speakers all found different aspects of the report to cheer, if only to avoid redundancy. The meeting lasted little more than 30 minutes.
But they were critical of aspects of the document. Merva said the report came up short in several areas. She and other speakers said it should recommend more affordable housing, that Milford had a shortage in this that the report could have addressed further.
"I did love that [loosening] restrictions on multifamily development housing and revisiting multi-use component for the Connecticut Post Mall [are in the report], but when I see the big picture, it is that the residential areas stay residential and we just look to the commercial corridors for residential housing," Merva said.
"There is nothing about public housing over the next 10 years. We have a three-year wait list [for some existing city housing]," Merva added. "There is senior housing [necessary] that is critical. How many housing units do we want or need? Can we do some [study] of that?"
She counted only two of the city's nine commercial areas in the report called out for changes and "I would be curious as to what is happening for the other corridor," she said.
Silver bemoaned how there are people "who grew up in Milford but can't live in Milford" because it is expensive or scarce at more affordable and available rates. He seeks "housing that fits in all neighborhoods."
Kramer said that historic preservation should be a more prominent part of the city's zoning or property review processes. Developers or property owners endure wetlands and planning and zoning board reviews and only then encounter potential historic-preservation analysis in developing or redeveloping a property. Earlier review would afford developers "more clarity and efficiency," she said.
"When you talk about historic preservation. It isn't just buildings or structures. It is also locations and properties," said Richard Platt. For example: Prospect Street has a home once owned by Milford's very first minister. That home is more than a building. It was also where the city's first burying ground was located, a fact that should be part of its continuing preservation, he said.
Carolyn Alling was pleased that the report recommended more community vegetable garden creation, "especially in the high-density neighborhoods," but she said that Edgemont Park might be a bad place to place one. The park gets salt water from a nearby marsh that could spoil a garden, she said.
She loves that the city is planning to renovate Beaverbrook Trail and its boardwalk. "I think that's a gem in Milford," Alling said.
Residents' comments will be incorporated into the finished product for the board to review next month and pass on to the Board of Aldermen, for review and possible final approval. The planning board has meetings set for June 6 and June 20.
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