Art Collins, Going his own way – Unwilling to put any agreements in writing

January 7, 2011

After multiple meetings over the last 12 months, Arthur Collins has decided to move forward with his apartment project without agreeing to any of the neighborhood suggestions that have come out of those multiple and numerous meetings.

Mr. Collins sought, and received, approval in 2008 to build a condominium complex on Newport Ave, adjacent to Granby Elementary School.  At all times relevant it was marketed and reported to be a condo project.  He was granted a rezoning which allowed 385 units to be built on the property (very dense) with the complete understanding of City Council and the surrounding neighborhoods that it would be a condo project.  A quality homeownership project was the only way that the community and City Council would accept the increased density.

Unfortunately, due to zoning regulations, a project cannot be limited to condos, and so this project was designated as multifamily.

2008 Original Siteplan - shows six small condo buildings nearest Newport Ave and three large condo buildings toward the river

2008 Original Siteplan - shows six small condo buildings nearest Newport Ave and three large condo buildings toward the river

The zoning that Collins received in 2008 required his site plan (definition: A site plan “usually shows a building footprint, travelways, parking, drainage facilities, sanitary sewer lines, water lines, trails, lighting, and landscaping”.) to be exactly as was on file in the Planning Department.

Unfortunately, the market for condos is now almost nonexistent.

Collins Apartments - Collins Summer 2010 proposal putting a large apartment building where four small condo buildings were to be built

Collins Apartments - Collins Summer 2010 proposal putting a large apartment building where four small condo buildings were to be built

Collins, in the summer of 2010, proposed an apartment complex which included a very large, almost circular, 4-story building, located up against Newport Ave which was to have included 189 apartment units.  Collins indicated at that time that there would be very little green space in his apartment proposal.

The neighbors and City Council members were not impressed.  They were unhappy with the switch from condos to apartments and the very large apartment bloc was uninviting and uninspiring.  It did not fit in with the nature and character of the neighborhood or Newport Ave.

Collins went back to the drawing board and came up with a more palatable proposal in the fall of 2010.  It was to be called the Landmark at Talbot Park and the design was well received.  Collins promised amenities like multiple clubhouses, multiple pools, public walkways, elevators, and attractive buildings.  Additionally, Art Collins agreed to engage the City for traffic calming solutions to accommodate the additional traffic; especially between the schools.

The Landmark at Talbot Park - Site Plan

The Landmark at Talbot Park - Site Plan

There were still those who were absolutely against apartments.  But the majority of those in attendance at the fall/winter meetings were warming to the newest proposal.  The neighbors asked for one thing:  put the proposal in writing and include it in the zoning of the property.

The neighbors had been let down before by Mr. Collins’ change from condos to apartments.  Before they would sign off on the new plan, they asked that he take the pretty architectural drawings that he was showing off at the meetings, and agree to build what was in those drawings.  If Collins were to put in his zoning that he would build what he was proposing, he couldn’t change his mind later and build something unexpected.  Without the zoning change, Collins could build all of the apartments and not a single amenity.  The neighbors were concerned.

Community members got together and came up with a proposed list of “proffers” or “conditions”.  They included requirements that the pools be built, that the walkway be built, that the elevators be built, and that the buildings look like the pretty pictures that Collins was parading from meeting to meeting.  Most, if not all, of the “proffers” were agreed to by the developer, and there was little doubt that the few that were not agreed to could be resolved.

The problem was that Collins (and/or his attorney) changed his mind and refused to put the “proffers” or “conditions” in the zoning.  They wanted to use them as “site plan conditions” which were unenforceable.  It took a meeting with Planning Director to finally convince the developer that “site plan conditions” do not restrict the developer.  One has to wonder whether the developer knew this all along and was hoping to pull a fast one on the neighbors.  The Planning Director advised that the way to make the “proffers” or “conditions” enforceable was to include them in the zoning.  The City Attorney’s office confirmed this.

Now Collins has backed away from any agreement with the neighborhoods.  He  is going to use the 2008 siteplan and change the elevations (the way the outside of the buildings appear, but not the location or size of the buildings).   He can do this without going before City Council.

It’s a shame that Collins wasted so much of the community’s time with meetings, public and private, and once a deal was seemingly struck, he was unwilling to put it in writing and commit.  One can only hope that Mr. Collins treats the neighborhood and community in a manner in which he would want his neighborhood in Connecticut treated.

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