WESTPORT — The Planning and Zoning Commission’s decision to approve a 94-unit affordable housing complex at 1177 Post Road E. was questioned for hours by the Representative Town Meeting’s P&Z Committee Wednesday night.

Filed by lead petitioner and RTM member John Suggs and signed by seven other RTM members, the petition sought to strike down the text amendment allowing a Residential-Rental Housing Opportunity/Workforce Zone District, as well as a map amendment to rezone the housing complex site from a General Business District to a Residential-Rental Housing Opportunity/Workforce Zone.

Applied for under the state general statute 8-30g, the four-story housing development will have 29 affordable units, or 30.8 percent of the dwellings. The 1.96-acre property will include an exposed parking lot and a parking lot underneath the building, offering 152 parking spaces.

Suggs called the amendments “spot zoning” and took aim at the height of the proposal going higher than three stories. Suggs said he, along with the other petitioners, supported affordable housing and were comfortable with a three-story structure.

“With this local law and the language that’s been put into the text amendment, it’s very alarming to see that we now, as a town, are actually writing into our DNA how to interact with 8-30g,” Suggs said.

If built, 1177 PRE would give the town enough moratorium points so that 8-30g affordable housing developers cannot build such a project for a four-year period, according to Town Attorney Ira Bloom.

Bloom said most P&Z commissions that deny 8-30g applications lose around 80 percent of the time because the statute puts such a heavy burden of proof on the commission.

The decision to deny by the commission has to prove it “is necessary to protect substantial public interest in health, safety or other manners which the commission may legally consider,” and “two such public interest clearly outweigh the need for affordable housing,” Bloom said, reading the law.

“So if a developer complies with the affordable, set aside 30 percent ... then the developer can basically ignore the local regulations,” Bloom said.

The committee will continue the matter on Tuesday.

@chrismmarquette / cmarquette@bcnnew.com