Prospective Ames Applicant to Present to TPZ
ROCKY HILL - Residents will have the opportunity to hear a tentative applicant for development at the former Ames site at a January 17 presentation before the Town Planning and Zoning Commission.

       They won’t have the opportunity to weigh-in-as the meeting is not a public hearing-and even the Planning and Zoning Commissioners will be limited in their comments, which are restricted to suggestions to the prospective applicants, said Town Planner Kim Ricci. They, by state statute, cannot issue a judgement regarding how they would vote on the plan if it came before them officially, according to Ricci.

       “It’s like a movie preview, before the movie comes out,” she said. “Sometimes it materializes into something, sometimes it doesn’t-I don’t know what to expect.”

       The last time a tentative developer came before the TPZ with a plan for the Ames site-vacant since 2002-nothing did. It was a mixed use residential/commercial scheme, that commissioners thought had a little too much residential.

       They blueprint they’ll get a look at on January 17 presents a drop in the number of units, which developer Joseph Jannetty-President of Massachusetts based Janco Development-says will make way for more of the desired commercial properties they hope to draw to and around the RH Rocky LLC-owned 2418 Main Street parcel.

       Jannetty’s plan calls for 145 units-80 percent 2-bedroom and 20 percent 2-bedroom. The last pre-application presentation the Commission heard was looking for 280 units.

       “The reduction of the units creates the ability to add 35 [thousand] to 40,000 square feet of commercial and or commercial with residential above in the land we own along Main Street,” Jannetty wrote in a memo to Ricci. “We will continue to add apartments above some of the retail or commercial spaces, as long as it doesn’t impede our ability to lease the commercial space.”

       He says the development’s long-term vision is for a multi-building, mixed use area marked by its walkability-a mission consistent with that outlined by the town in a summer 2017 comprehensive rezoning plan crated around establishing the town center district as a “village” setup.

       “That building is part of it,” Ricci said. “It’s the largest lot on that side of town. There were concerns about its use.”

       Janco would demolish the existing Ames building, and construct the new apartments-which would look similar to the three story, balcony and sliding door residential development they did in Simsbury. The construction of a “raw”, spec commercial building, as was done for a project on Brook Street, would not be feasible as it is next to impossible to secure a loan for that kind of project, Jannetty said.

       “It is our hope that the Commission sees our good faith effort to provide a feasible project,” he wrote.

       But any development at the property would need to-in one shape or form-be able to call itself mixed use in order to align with zoning regulations, Ricci said.

       “Times may have changed, but if you don’t at least build the shell, you’re not in compliance,” she said.