Yale Daily News

On Monday, the Board of Alders unanimously approved a zoning amendment to allow for residential development at Long Wharf.

Earlier this year, the New Haven City Plan Commission recommended a zoning ordinance,  which allows for residential and related uses of up to 500 apartments located at 501-585 Long Wharf Dr. The plan passed despite opposition by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, or DEEP.

The development project will be led by the Long Wharf-based Fusco Corporation.

“This city needs more and denser housing,” Ward 9 Alder Charles Decker said. “And the Long Wharf area could be a thriving transit center neighborhood.”

Decker, who serves on the joint community development and legislation committee, was first to “favorably recommend” Fusco’s vision of Long Wharf. 

The development is set to include two mixed use buildings — one 13 and another 15 stories tall — as well as associated parking, open space and commercial retail space. 

While members of the Board of Alders were in agreement over the plan, they noted concerns over environmental consequences of the zoning change, following criticism from state officials.

“Due to climate change, sea levels will continue to rise,” Decker said. “Flooding will become more frequent.” Decker said that these trends will endanger the Long Wharf development in years to come —  a point DEEP Director Brian Thompson made in a letter earlier this year. 

“Residential development in this already flood-prone area where such development is not currently allowed does not reflect sound coastal management objectives and should be prohibited, not encouraged,” Thompson said in a statement.

Thompson said that developing residential property in the area was a high safety risk, especially during heavy storms and flooding.

Ward 25 Alder Adam Marchand acknowledged the letter’s concerns, but noted that he had faith in the city’s planning.

“I take very seriously the letter that the DEEP sent advising our city not to build on the shoreline,” Marchand said. “But I was satisfied with the answer that our city staff gave, especially our city engineer.”

Marchand was referencing a response by city engineer Giovanni Zinn, who served on the plan’s technical advisory committee in 2019.

Other alders discussed Long Wharf’s existing infrastructure.

Ward 21 Alder Steven Winter pointed to the need for infrastructure to address environmental concerns regarding the zoning change. He noted that while the amendment opens up new development opportunities, it also presents new risks.

“We should approve this PDD amendment because of the significant development potential,” he said. “But we should also be aware of the significant costs of new infrastructure improvements on Long Wharf Drive that will be required to support this development.”

Ward 6 Alder Carmen Rodriguez said that she believes passing the amendment would allow the city’s government to start conversations that would help keep everyone safe in the area — not only in Long Wharf, but across New Haven’s harbor.

“It will help us reach out to state and local governments to assist us in the infrastructure that needs to be done over the long run,” she said.

She added that the city would continue to invest in the Long Wharf Growth Plan, which places a “strategic focus on coastal resiliency, progressive economic strategies and community engagement,” according to the city’s website.

As a next step, Fusco will be publishing a more detailed project review for the site.

WILLIAM PORAYOUW