Developer looks to build 500-plus housing units at Ridge at Talcott Notch
Plan is not yet a formal submission
By Paul Palmer
SIMSBURY – The developers of Talcott Ridge North in Simsbury are meeting with town officials to discuss a plan to add just over 500 new units of housing at the former Hartford Insurance site at 200 Hopmeadow Street. The New Jersey based Silverman Group designed and built what is now being called Ridge at Talcott Notch-North on a different portion of the same property – but not without some issues with the town.
No formal application has been submitted for any work, but the initial plans call for 448 apartments, 22 duplexes, and 50 single-family units. All the properties will be rented, with the single-family homes being estimated at $2,900-$3,500 a month for the 2,000 to 2,500 square foot homes. Paul Vitaliano of VHB Engineering said that affordable housing would be part of the plan.
At a preliminary application presentation on June 21 he told the Zoning Commission that the project would include both market rate and 8-30g housing. The latter refers to a state statute that allows a developer to provide units that are deed restricted for households that earn 80 % or 60% of the state or area median income, generally whichever is lower. The statute allows developers with qualifying projects to build with far less input from a town that has less than 10% affordable housing. In fact, the town has the burden to prove a significant health or safety concern in denying such an application. Simsbury is currently in litigation with another developer- Vessel Technologies- after saying no to Vessel’s plan to build an affordable housing unit in Simsbury.
As for the Silverman Group, the company and the Zoning Committee have been at loggerheads with each other during work on the North section of the property. As part of the original 2017 deal with Simsbury, that property was supposed to include mixed-use/retail units. The developer came to the Commission last summer asking that it increase the number of residential occupancy permits to be issued to more than 90% of the total units before the two commercial buildings were completed. At that time, some Commission members expressed concerns with altering an original agreement that the two sides had made. The Silverman Group agreed to post a bond in the amount of $611,000 to ensure the work would be completed by the end of 2022. In exchange for that bond and promise, the Silverman Group was given the certificates of occupancy that it sought. The end of 2022 deadline came and went and the work was not done. Silverman representatives said the delay was due to changes the town had requested, issues with a contractor, as well as supply chain delays, but they vowed to complete the work by the end of this month (June 2023).
At June’s meeting, Commission member Bruce Elliott, who in the past has said he felt that Silverman should have been held to its original deal with the town, reminded Vitaliano of the issues. “We haven’t given up on the retail development,” Elliott said. “ The owner feels bad about it and so do we, but we are not giving up on it. We feel there was a commitment at the beginning to have mixed use and that’s what we want.”
Vitaliano said there are no plans for any retail or mixed-use buildings in the South project. “That was a component of the building in the North, and as everybody knows they have sat empty,” Vitaliano responded.
Attorney T.J. Donohue, who represents the Silverman Group, reminded the Zoning Commission that there is a long history of success between Simsbury and Silverman. So much so that Silverman, he said, is the #1 taxpayer for property in Simsbury. “Silverman contributes 1.9% of Simsbury’s grand List,” he said. “ They pay $2.6 million per year on the property and with the South development, that would go to $4 million or about 4% OF THE Town’s Grand list.” If the group submits plans and moves forward with the new construction, they estimate it would take 4-5 years to complete the entire buildout of the 506 units.