Hiawatha Lane development gets another chance
WESTPORT — An effort to bring a 187-unit affordable housing complex to the Saugatuck neighborhood is not over.
The Planning and Zoning Commission initially denied Summit Saugatuck LLC’s application at its June 20 meeting, citing public safety concerns. However, due to the proposal being submitted as an 8-30g application, there is still an opportunity for the developer to take “a second bite at the apple,” Planning and Zoning Director Mary Young said.
Per the state statute, rejected affordable housing requests can be resubmitted with modifications to appeal the denial.
Attorney Tim Hollister, who represents the developer, confirmed he has since resubmitted the application, with a public hearing scheduled for Sept. 12.
“We will look at their June 2019 reasons for denial and we will give our responses as to where we disagree,” Hollister said.
If built, the housing development on Hiawatha Lane would consist of 130 market-rate, and 57 affordable units.
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 in Norwalk, which stated both parties needed a secondary access road.
The city of Norwalk made the only property viable for such a road a conservation easement in 2009, which prevented the road’s construction.
Planning and Zoning Vice Chairman Danielle Dobin, at the June 20 meeting, said Hiawatha Lane could not be widened to accommodate safe pedestrian access or emergency fire vehicles.
In a letter to the commission dated July 11, Hollister wrote the emergency access road, as well as pedestrian access to the train station, should have been addressed as conditions of approval rather than denial reasons.
“The site plan denial resolution contains several, substantial inaccuracies specifically about the additional Norwalk access,” he wrote. “Hopefully, these items can be addressed during the resubmission process.”
Previous denials of affordable housing proposals have led to lawsuits against Westport, most recently Morningside Drive Homes, which reached a legal settlement with the town in June 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.
Despite the uncertain future, Hollister said he was hopeful a resolution could be found.
“The process has many steps,” he said. “We take them one at a time and it’s always been a goal to come up with a housing plan that fits the town of Westport.”