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TPZ Set to Hold Wetlands Hearing on Proposed Development for Former UConn Campus

Site plan for Oakwood Park as of Nov. 16, 2023. Courtesy of West Hartford 1 LLC

The West Hartford Town Plan & Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing on the wetlands application submitted by the developers of Oakwood Park on the UConn campus on Wednesday, Nov. 29.

Rendering of Oakwood Park proposed development. Courtesy of West Hartford 1 LLC

By Ronni Newton

West Hartford’s Town Plan & Zoning Commission (TPZ) will hold a long-delayed public hearing on the wetlands application submitted by West Hartford 1 LLC for development of 1700 and 1800 Asylum Avenue – the former UConn campus – on Wednesday, Nov. 29, beginning at 7 p.m. in Room 314 of Town Hall.

Town Manager Rick Ledwith told We-Ha.com while there are still some questions outstanding, “the hearing will take place on Wednesday.” He said a large turnout is expected, and he anticipated there will be many in the community looking to offer comment on the proposal.

Ledwith and several other town staff members met with a group from the community that has expressed significant concerns about the wetlands impact of the proposed development. While the group was adamant that Mayor Shari Cantor attend the meeting, neither she nor any other member of the Town Council are permitted to comment in any way on the plans at this time because any proposed changes to the zoning of the site will require Council approval and must follow the established regulations for application review.

Only the wetlands application for the development, which is named Oakwood Park – has been formally submitted at this point, and Ledwith said anyone wishing to comment at the hearing must keep their remarks to that topic.

“The group that met with us is focused on the wetlands. That’s all we’re discussing,” he said.

Development on the former UConn campus is complicated by the fact that a significant portion of the roughly 58-acre parcel, which spans both sides of Trout Brook Drive just north of Asylum Avenue, is either wetlands or within the 150-foot upland review area where it would have direct wetlands and watercourses impact. TPZ, in addition to considering zoning applications, is also the town’s Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency (IWWA).

DRAC has requested a view of the proposed Oakwood Park development relative to the overall area. Courtesy of West Hartford 1 LLC

Since the wetlands application was first submitted on June 30, there has been extensive review of the plans by town staff as well as Megan Raymond of SLR International, a professional consultant and soil scientist hired by the town due to the specialized nature of the work and the sensitivity of the site environment. The developer also commissioned their own wetlands report, which can be reviewed here. The report recommends a wetlands protection program during the construction period “to avoid unintentional impacts to these sensitive aquatic resources.”

Recent changes to the proposal reduce the total number of residential units from 620 to 569.

While the number of units and footprint on the east side of the parcel has not changed in the latest set of plans – there are still 322 apartment units being proposed in four buildings of four or five stories – several buildings on the west side have been modified or eliminated.

The new plans shrink the assisted living facility by 50,000 square feet, reducing the number of units to 117 from the earlier plan for 158 units.

Site plan for Oakwood Park as of Nov. 16, 2023. Courtesy of West Hartford 1 LLC

The developer has also submitted multiple iterations and renderings to West Hartford’s Design Review Advisory Commission (DRAC), all for informal study sessions. The most recent informal review by DRAC took place on Nov. 16, with discussion focused on changes that the developer had most recently made such as shifting the townhouses along Asylum Avenue to 40 feet back from the road and adding shared driveways and backyards, reducing the size of the footprint and slightly shifting the location of the assisted living building to reduce the impact on wetlands, the location of the spine road through the development relative to the intersection of Fox Meadow and Asylum (most DRAC members prefer that the roads are opposite each other), berms, and the design of the destination spa and premier restaurant buildings.

There was also discussion during DRAC’s most recent information study session about modifications to the trail system on the west side of the property to create additional buffers between development and the wetlands, and discussion about overflow parking for the ballfields with plans for a possible connector between the 1700 Asylum site and the University of Saint Joseph campus just to the east where parking lots could be used for special events.

No timeline has been provided for the next DRAC review of the development.

Members of West Hartford’s Design Review Advisory Commission (DRAC) meet with the West Hartford 1 development team for an informal study session on Nov. 16. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The most current application that will be reviewed by TPZ on Nov. 29, as well as related plans and materials, can be reviewed on the land use application webpage of the own’s website. Updates to the webpage are made regularly as new materials are received or when staff comments have been added and/or responded to. The applications can also be reviewed at the Town Plan and Zoning Office, Room 214, Town Hall, 50 South Main Street, West Hartford. 

Any questions regarding these applications can be addressed to Town Planner Todd Dumais at 860-561-7556 or via email at [email protected].

Links to previous reporting by We-Ha.com on the former UConn campus property and its history can be found here.

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