P&Z Watch: New Proposal for Former HASCO Factory in Byram Features 10 Residential Units

A new pre-application to redevelop the property at 84 South Water Street, the former HASCO Electric property, has been submitted by attorneys on behalf of 84 S Water Street II on June 23.

The applicants seek to build a three story building with 10 dwelling units along the Byram River. The ground floor would be for parking, plus two residential floors above.

The plans include a boardwalk along the river that would connect to the existing boardwalk along the south.

The .922 acre parcel is bounded on the west by the river on the north by Interstate Lumber, and on the south by a residential development at 88 South Water St.

A challenge may be that the property is in the Waterfront Business (WB) zone which is zoned for water related uses, not residential.

Still other residential developments have gone forward.

The applicant’s narrative points out that several non-conformities would be eliminated.

The existing building is well over allowable Floor Area Ratio (1.12 FAR where .5 FAR is the max) and its setbacks are non compliant. Existing building coverage is 86.6% where only 30% is allowed. A further nonconformity is that it has no parking at all. The applicant estimates that to conform the factory would have had to have between 66 and 77 parking spaces.

88 South Water Street

Many remember that 88 South Water Street $2 million condos the Wahba brothers did not sell and that project was foreclosed on. A new owner went before P&Z in 2016 seeking to complete the residential project. The commission explained that back in 2005 the residential project had been approved for the “nonconforming use” in the WB zone through a legal settlement, and that the court system retained jurisdiction. They noted the site plan had expired in 2014. At the time, HMC members pointed out that condominiums were not a water dependent use by definition. Today the units are completed.

84 South Water Street HASCO Electric

Back in 2021, Sean Wallace and Nick Barile, the owners the property 84 South Water Street, proposed to demolish the defunct factory and build a mini self-storage facility. The factory had no on site parking for employees, who parked instead on South Water Street and the applicants noted that a mini self storage facility had very low parking requirements. Mr. Wallace said he and Mr. Barile purchased the property back in 2018 and spent a considerable amount of time and money cleaning up the “environmentally challenged site.”

HASCO factory
Per the applicant’s narrative, HASCO Electric company operated on the site from roughly 1962 to the early 2000’s manufacturing lighting fixtures and components. The existing building consists of the original approximately 20,000 sq ft structure fronting South Water Street and a sprawling single-story 24,000 sq ft addition built in the 1970s. The property contains no parking spaces.

The applicants said a portion of the storage would be for boats, but there would be no water access.

While they offered to extend the walkway along the Byram River, the commission balked at a non-WB zone use.

The Byram Neighborhood Association testified against the facility. Al Shehadi who chairs the land use committee for the BNA said that while he sympathized with the developers not being able to develop the property for residential use, the BNA simply did not want a self storage facility in their neighborhood.

Also, the property is in a FEMA flood zone and P&Z chair Margarita Alban told the applicants in 2021 that if they demolished the entire building, new construction would be required to be fully FEMA compliant.

The last major pre-application on South Water Street was in 2022 when CT Natural Gas wanted to locate a regional operations facility on the .86 acre property at 112 South Water Street, including truck and equipment parking. It was not received favorably by the commission who noted that industrial use is not allowed in the WB Zone, even though they proposed to preserve the existing private Ebb Tide Marina. Further, commission balked at the idea of creating a non conformity in a zone they’ve been trying to beautify for several years.

When the applicant said they had already spoken to the Connecticut Siting Council and PURA, and gotten their green light, they hinted they might go to the state under a hardship application. But P&Z chair Margarita Alban pointed out that the requirements of the WB zone did not stem from a local reg, but state law. And that was that.