As large housing projects loom, Westport plans forum on 'affordable' law
Published 7:32 am, Monday, January 19, 2015
A public meeting on the state's affordable housing law is planned Tuesday by the Representative Town Meeting's Planning and Zoning Committee.
Presenters will be Town Attorney Ira Bloom, Larry Bradley, the town's planning and zoning director, and state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-136. The public forum is set for 7:30 p.m. in the Town Hall auditorium,
"We need our residents to fully understand what is happening, the rules and regulations surrounding this situation," he said.
Both proposals are wending their way through the town's boards and commissions at this time and people need to understand the process, he said.
"I'm sure we all endorse the concept of greater housing diversity in Westport," Steinberg said. "But 8-30g is a statute which has encouraged some developers to propose projects of a density and scale beyond common-sense planning principles," he said. " I hope we can refine any such proposal to meet the spirit of both community and diversity needs."
Westport has 2.7 percent of its housing stock restricted as "affordable," according to information supplied by Mandell.
The state mandates that 10 percent is needed, he added. Such projects can more easily challenge local zoning regulations -- if denied by the Planning and Zoning Commission -- if 30 percent of the units proposed are restricted as "affordable." Issues regarding increased taxes, traffic, town character and school class size are not considered germane in these proceedings, Mandell said.
"Since Connecticut General Statute Section 8-30g shifts the burden to the local planning and zoning commission to justify any denial of an affordable housing application, it is important to understand the law and the cases that have been decided under it," said Bloom. "I look forward to the meeting with the RTM and residents."
Last week, Summit Saugatuck LLC withdrew its application to the Water Pollution Control Authority for a sewer extension to Hiawatha Lane Extension.
The P&Z a week earlier had delayed action on a request for the extension that would mean Summit could follow through on plans for a 186-unit housing project on 19 lots on that street, located in the Saugatuck area of town.
In the letter dated Jan. 12, Timothy S. Hollister, the lawyer representing Summit Saugatuck, stated the town "should not take this action as Summit abandoning its development plan for Hiawatha Lane Extension," according to First Selectman Jim Marpe. "A new application will be filed shortly," the letter said.
"I was pleased to receive this letter," Marpe said. "The report the town commissioned from Weston & Sampson engineers clearly showed the limits to the pump station serving this area. I hope that Summit will take this opportunity to reconsider the scope of its proposal."
He said the planned WPCA hearing on Jan. 29 for this application is canceled. The selectmen, who comprise the town's WPCA, could have approved or denied the application.
Mandell said attendees will be able to speak and ask questions.
"It is anticipated that each of the neighborhood groups organized in response to these proposals will also be there to introduce themselves and answer questions about their situation," he said.
For information, contact Matthew Mandell at firstname.lastname@example.org.