Commission denies Hiawatha Lane development
WESTPORT — Citing public safety concerns and more, the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously denied a proposed 187-unit affordable housing complex in the Saugatuck neighborhood on Thursday.
The application, proposed by Summit Saugatuck LLC, was submitted as an 8-30g application before the town’s recent four-year moratorium. If built, the housing development would have been near the Avalon rental complex in Norwalk.
In municipalities that don’t have enough affordable housing in the eyes of the state, any 8-30 g application brought before a town or city’s zoning board can circumvent local building regulations and only be denied on traffic, safety or environmental grounds.
Commissioner Catherine Walsh said over the past decade there has been 23 text amendments to promote affordable housing, adding the town has helped create around 300 multifamily units.
Attorney Peter Gelderman said the town’s affordable units were in excess of those required to get points for an 8-30g moratorium, which was granted in March.
“We have hit and exceeded the moratorium,” Planning and Zoning Chairman Paul Lebowitz said.
Safe pedestrian access was one of the key reasons for the denial. In 2006, a mutual restrictive agreement was made between Summit Saugatuck and the then-owners of the Avalon Complex, which stated both parties needed a secondary access road.
In 2009, the city of Norwalk made the only property viable for such an access road a conservation easment, which prevented the road’s construction.
Planning and Zoning Vice Chairman Danielle Dobin said Hiawatha Lane could not be widened to accommodate safe pedestrian access or emergency fire vehicles.
“The text amendment ignores site and neighborhood concerns with regards to infrastructure constraints,” she said.
In previous testimony, Fire Marshal Nate Gibbons said an adequate second fire road was needed near the site, and also advised against approving the project without this road.
The text amendment, which called for a new zoning district — the Saugatuck Village District — to promote affordable housing, was the first part of the application voted down. With a denied text amendment, the map amendment and site plan was also denied.
Summit Saugatuck LLC’s Principal Felix Charney has said that, if denied, he would next go to court. The application could potentially follow a similar fate of Morninside Drive Homes, which recently reached a legal settlement with the town after several attempts to build on a historic Green Farms property. Morningside was approved a three-lot subdivision for 26 Morningside Drive South in the deal.
This was Charney’s seventh time in front of the commission since 2002, having previously served on the commission.