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Lawsuit creates question about future of large apartment complex proposed near UConn Health Center

Hartford Courant logo Hartford Courant 6/9/2021 Don Stacom, Hartford Courant
Metro Realty Group has won a zoning permit that allows a large three-story apartment building along a stretch of Route 4 in Farmington that has become a medical and technology jobs corridor. Photograph by Mark Mirko | mmirko@courant.com © Mark Mirko/Mark Mirko Metro Realty Group has won a zoning permit that allows a large three-story apartment building along a stretch of Route 4 in Farmington that has become a medical and technology jobs corridor. Photograph by Mark Mirko | mmirko@courant.com

Metro Realty Group has won a zone change that would allow a three-story apartment complex near the UConn Health Center in Farmington, but opposing neighbors have sued to block the controversial project.

The town’s Plan and Zoning Commission in late May approved a zone change that allows Metro Realty to build on a Route 4 site near the UConn Health Center.

The Farmington-based company proposed 146 apartments in a four-story building, which drew opposition from scores of neighbors and other town residents who said it was far too large for a residential area. One of their chief complaints was that a 46-foot-high building — with a small rooftop deck area — would dominate the skyline in a section of town that was never zoned for large-scale development. But very nearby, a section of Route 4 has seen numerous medical buildings added in the last decade, since Farmington opted into the Bioscience Enterprise Zone to welcome Jackson Laboratories and other bioscience companies.

The Plan and Zoning Commission went through numerous all-night public hearings during the winter and early spring before deciding May 24 to grant a zone change. But commissioners made some concessions to neighbors’ concerns: The approval allows only three floors instead of four, and specifies that tenants cannot have access to the roof.

The approval limits Metro Realty to the building footprint it already proposed, so the company cannot make up the lost square footage by enlarging its design.

It’s unclear exactly how Metro Realty will downsize the plan, and company President Geoffrey Sager did not return a phone message Wednesday. Metro Realty will have to file a site plan when it seeks a building permit, and that document will specify the number of apartments along with details about the square footage of each one.

The future of the project could be affected by a lawsuit filed by neighbors Lynn and Richard Fichman. The suit contends the town’s wetlands board did not do a thorough job in reviewing Metro Realty’s application; the Fichmans are asking a state Superior Court judge to revoke the project’s wetlands permit.

Filed the day after the Plan and Zoning Commission vote, the Fichmans’ suit contends the wetlands board should have required Metro Realty to propose alternatives that would have less wetlands impact. Three-family homes or mixed-used development would be two examples, they argue.

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