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West Hartford Town Council Hearing for Former UConn Campus Development Delayed

West Hartford Town Council seated on Monday, March 11, when a public hearing was scheduled for 1700 Asylum Avenue, but it was immediately continued. Burke Doar (third from left) was the zoning alternate for Mary Fay, who was absent. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The Town Council was set to hold a public hearing Monday, March 11 to review the application for a zoning change and creation of a Special Development District for 1700 Asylum Avenue, but several critical issues still needed to be resolved and the hearing has been continued to April 15.

Rendering of 1700 Asylum Avenue as proposed by West Hartford 1 LLC. Town of West Hartford website image

By Ronni Newton

The long-awaited hearing and vote on the application by WeHa Development Group East, LLC to rezone a portion of 1700 Asylum Avenue and create a Special Development District was scheduled to take place beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Monday March 11, but the West Hartford Town Council’s consideration of the application will have to wait a few weeks longer.

Members of the public packed Council chambers, with 28 people signed up to testify about the proposal during the public hearing, and after a 45-minute delay the hearing was opened and without any further action or testimony was immediately continued to Monday, April 15, at 5:30 p.m.

Mayor Shari Cantor read the following statement: “At the request of the applicant, we are continuing the hearing to April 15 in Council chambers at 5:30 p.m. so that the applicant has time to address outstanding issues with staff regarding the fire marshal’s comments and engineering.”

All parties – the developer’s team, Council members, and the public – were fully expecting the hearing, which had been on the schedule since late January, to take place Monday night, and the move for continuation came as a complete surprise.

Prior to the opening of the hearing, several members of the development team met with town staff, including West Hartford Town Manager Rick Ledwith, Corporation Counsel Dallas Dodge, Deputy Corporation Counsel Gina Varano, Town Planner Todd Dumais, and Director of Community Development Duane Martin corporation counsel and other key staff members to try to determine whether or not critical information still needed – including a response to staff comments for clarification about emergency access to the site for fire apparatus and specific details regarding plans for widening Trout Brook Drive and adding left-turn lanes, among other issues – could be adequately answered and addressed during the developer’s presentation.

Town Council members were waiting in another room while staff met with the developer’s representatives, and ultimately it was determined and agreed that rather than conducting the process on a piecemeal basis, it would be best to have the developer present a complete and final application at a later date, and for the public to have the opportunity to comment on that final application at the public hearing.

“The start of the land use hearing for 1700 Asylum Avenue was delayed due to a discussion between the Town’s legal, engineering and planning staff with consultants for the applicant concerning outstanding items and staff comments on technical aspects of the application,” Dodge told We-Ha.com. “The Town Council was not present for and did not participate in this discussion. The public hearing was then continued to a new date to provide the applicant time to continue work on several issues and to ensure that members of the public have the opportunity to comment on a complete application.”

“The applicant will work with the town to address the issues that were raised very late in the process,” a spokesperson for West Hartford 1 LLC told We-Ha.com.

Town Council chambers were packed on March 11 for a hearing scheduled on the application for 1700 Asylum Avenue. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Several members of the public, who were planning to testify Monday evening, loudly voiced their displeasure when the postponement was announced.

Resident Charlotte Gara, who has been part of a group of area residents organizing opposition to the proposal, said in an email Monday night to We-Ha.com that it is “mind boggling” that a cost-benefit analysis has not been done by the town. Efforts to obtain signatures of neighborhood residents in opposition will continue, Gara said.

“We picked up 10 new members for our group from residents who were disgusted with the way the developer was allowed to string along the town by not answering the questions posed in the town documents,” Gara said. “Not sure why the developer is playing for time here.”

Resident Jessica Rubin, who was one of three people who filed an Intervener Petition during the Town Plan and Zoning Commission’s review of the wetlands application in their capacity as the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency, also expressed her disdain for the postponement.

“Residents devoted time and effort to attend tonight’s hearing in order to share their concerns with Town officials,” Rubin said in an email to We-Ha.com on Monday night. “The Council should have heard from residents. Comments from residents who elect officials to represent them are just as important as – indeed more important than – presentations by a developer. Even if that developer wanted to postpone its presentation, residents should have been allowed to speak tonight.”

Gary Schulman, who was also one of the intervenors, shared the following statement in an email to We-Ha.com: “Prohibiting the public from participating in tonight’s hearing, without offering any explanation, alienates residents, disrespects their time and raises concerns about the entire process. Residents deserve information and transparency, rather than obfuscation and delays.”

All members of the public who wish to speak can attend the hearing on April 15, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Each speaker is allowed three minutes, and there is no limit to the number of people who are permitted to speak. In addition, members of the public can also submit their testimony to the Town Council via email.

Updates to the application that have already been made, some in response to comments from the Town Plan and Zoning Commission (TPZ) and the Design Review Advisory Committee (DRAC) include increasing the number of affordable units to 26 (8% of total units) from an earlier proposal of 16 units. The proposal is to set aside 10 one-bedroom and 16 two-bedroom units as affordable. Another update been made over the past week include removal of a security gate which was recommended by both DRAC and TPZ.

Rendering of proposed entrance to The Residences at Heritage Park – the 1700 Asylum Avenue portion of the proposed development for the former UConn campus in West Hartford. Courtesy image (we-ha.com file photo)

Current status of the application for Heritage Park

The application by WeHa Development Group East, LLC, a team led by Dominic Carpionato, was received by the Town Council at its Jan. 23, 2024 meeting, and requests approval of a change in the zoning from R-10 (single family) to RM-MS (multifamily-multistory) for the portion of 1700 Asylum Avenue where they would like to build four multifamily residential buildings of four or five stories with a total of 322 units. The area that would be subject to rezoning is 14.9 acres – the northern portion of the overall 23.8-acre parcel – most of which is currently an asphalt parking lot. The developer is also requesting creation of a Special Development District for the entire 1700 Asylum property, which would include the ballfields and playground on the southern portion of the property.

It’s been more than two years since developer West Hartford 1 LLC purchased the entire former UConn West Hartford campus, but after receiving a wetlands permit and recommendations from both the Design Review Advisory Committee (DRAC) and Town Plan and Zoning Commission (TPZ) for the east side of the parcel, known as 1700 Asylum Avenue, the next step is for the Town Council to hold a public hearing followed by a meeting where they will vote on the application.

The extensive application for 1700 Asylum, which includes a nearly-700-page traffic study, stormwater management details, outreach reports, renderings, and other plan documents, is available on the town’s website as part of the agenda for the hearing that had been scheduled for March 11.

The overall project encompasses two separate parcels of land on either side of Trout Brook Drive, requiring two separate applications to obtain wetlands permits, as well as for zoning. The wetlands application for 1700 Asylum, which had been the subject of roughly 15 hours of public hearing split into three meetings, received unanimous approval from TPZ in their capacity as the town’s Inland Westlands and Watercourses Agency (IWWA) on Jan. 17, 2024.

West Hartford 1 LLC would ultimately like to create a “neighborhood campus village” to be called Heritage Park, with the “Residences at Heritage Park” on the east side and a mix of residential and commercial uses at 1800 Asylum, which is the western portion of the property. Due to the need for further analysis of wetlands issues at 1800 Asylum Avenue, the wetlands application for that parcel was withdrawn in December and the developer has not yet resubmitted it. As was the case with 1700 Asylum, a wetlands permit is needed before the project can move to the next phase of consideration.

Rendering of 1700 Asylum Avenue as proposed by West Hartford 1 LLC. Town of West Hartford website image


DRAC had conducted extensive review of the design elements of both the 1700 and 1800 Asylum parcels during seven informal study sessions, the first of which was held on Oct. 27, 2022, before giving official consideration to the 1700 Asylum application as a referral from the Town Council,

On Feb. 22, 2024, in response to the referral from the Town Council, DRAC officially considered the 1700 Asylum application and voted 3-1 to recommend approval finding the application “consistent with our Committee’s Performance Criteria.” DRAC is tasked with reviewing a proposal for site orientation, site layout, and architecture.

The approval letter specifically stated that the “relationship of the proposed buildings to the site and adjoining neighborhood is appropriate. While the collective buildings are substantial, their design, in particular site placement and architecture are compatible with its surroundings,” noting that the buildings are centralized on the site and situated as far away as possible from adjacent properties to the north and south, and also noting that the buildings along Trout Brook Drive, while five stories, have a step-back from the fourth to the fifth floor that helps reduce the perceived massing … “all of which help to create a contextually sensitive resorbs fir the redevelopment of this portion of the former UConn Campus.”

DRAC also noted the “high quality and quantity” of propose landscaping. “A good mixture of plantings ranging from street, flowering and evergreen trees to shrubs, perennials and grasses has been effectively utilized to create a well-designed streetscape and appropriately planted and screened parking areas. Of particular note is the effort to preserve the Champion White Oak and create a naturalized planting environment,” the letter states.

DRAC noted the arrangement of landscaping and site amenities, as well as the interior trash management system, would be conducive to the long-term maintenance. Their letter did, however, suggest removal of an access-control vehicle gate that is part of the proposal because it contributes “visually and functionally to a sense of separateness and withdrawal from the surrounding community, and maintenance of the gates may create issues for residents, guests, and deliveries.”

According to Town Planner Todd Dumais, the dissenting vote by a member of DRAC mentioned the size and scale of the proposal as inappropriate for the site.


On March 4, TPZ officially considered the 1700 Asylum application on referral from the Town Council, and voted 4-1 to recommend the project. TPZ is tasked with considering the project in terms of the overall vision of West Hartford’s 2020-2030 Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD).

“Overall I think this has met its burden,” and fits within the POCD, said TPZ Chair Kevin Ahern before he voted to recommend the application.

The letter from TPZ noted that the proposal is consistent with the goals of the “Neighborhoods and Housing” section of the POCD, which states the goal is to: “Enhance and maintain West Hartford’s existing neighborhoods and encourage diversity of housing types and costs to provide access and availability of housing options to current and future residents” through the review and revision as necessary of zoning ordinances. 

TPZ also noted that the proposal is consistent with the “Open Space and Environment” section of the POCD, which is to “preserve, protect, enhance and promote out open space and our fragile natural systems in concert with managing responsible growth and development.”

Finally, TPZ wrote in its recommendation that the proposed development is consistent with the “Land Use” section goal of the POCD, which is to “sustain and preserve the Town of West Hartford as a balanced community, maintaining and promoting neighborhood quality and open space in conjunction with the principles of Smart [Sustainable] Growth.”

During their deliberations, TPZ member Liz Gillette, who cast the dissenting vote, expressed opposition to “this type of high density, massive building structure” which she said should not be overlooked because we said we need more housing. She had asked Dumais for information about how much additional rental housing had been added since the POCD was adopted in 2020, and the data indicates about a 20% increase in rental stock. “With a 20% increase in apartments we already met that goal,” said Gillette. “I think this is just too big and not appropriate for that spot.”

TPZ member Gordon Binkhorst said he heard many of the same arguments that were raised when there was a review of the application for 243 Steele Road. “The scale of this is certainly very different from what is there now – a vacant parking lot,” he said, but he noted that the number of applications the town has recently seen for multifamily rental housing is driven by market conditions. “I do think we need additional rental units in town,” he said, but he noted – and TPZ included a recommendation in the letter – that the percentage of affordable housing should be more than 5%.

In their recommendation TPZ, like DRAC, also strongly encouraged removal of the access-control gates as “not consistent with the vision of the POCD.”

The executive director of the Miracle League of Connecticut recently shared some comments regarding the need to resurface the accessible field on the 1700 Asylum Avenue property but noted there is concern about making the investment without a formal long-term commitment for use of the fields.

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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