A portion of a text amendment, with respect to lot area and shape, was approved unanimously Thursday by the Planning and Zoning Commission, allowing a developer to move forward with an affordable housing initiative to build as many as 48 units on each of two Post Road East lots

Richard Redniss, representing the developer for both sites — 785 Post Road East LLC and 1141 Post Road East LLC — told the commission that in order to proceed with redevelopment of the two properties in compliance with “Inclusionary Housing Overlay District” guidelines, changes in language defining lot area and shape were needed. His initial proposal asked for four changes.

In an IHZ, which seeks to promote diversity in the town’s housing inventory, at least 20 percent of residential units must be deed restricted as “affordable” under the state’s affordable housing 8-30g statute.

Referring to the four proposed changes in the text amendment, Redniss asked the commission to, "Keep in mind we have four text statements, you’re talking about one that would apply outside of the IHZ, the other three are just IHZ so let’s not throw all four babies out with one bath.”

P&Z member Catherine Walsh pressed Redniss to prioritize the four requests and choose an essential change. "So pick one. What do you really need for the project? Pick one or prioritize them," Walsh said.

The one that Redniss selected, and subsequently the one approved by the P&Z, changes, "the location requirement from frontage on an arterial street that is equal to at least 15 percent of the perimeter of the lot, to a location requirement of frontage of 75 feet on an arterial street.”

Commission members were supportive of the overall plan, but were critical of the other requests to revise the amendment and turned them down.

Chairman Chip Stephens took issue with the request "to allow man-made earth slopes to exceed a 5:1 or 20 percent slope and to allow grading or slope changes with five feet of any lot line.

"One of the concerns I have is it seems to be encouraging digging into slopes,” he added. "We’ve had sloped properties and our experience the last six months has been, I don’t want to say devastating, but rather difficult with sloped properties. Some of them have conditions that should never have been sloped others have been kind of disastrous once they went ahead … one of them was a constant headache after it was developed.”

Walsh was also critical of the proposed slope change, "There are other sites in town that are IHZ zones that changing the grading would affect so it’s not limited to just these — I’m very reluctant to make any changes."

Redniss also had proposed an amendment seeking to change the zoning map to re-zone 1141 Post Road East, which was continued to the March 3 meeting. However, Walsh made it clear that she thought it was "bizarre" because the two items were running concurrently.

Redniss responded, "Running them concurrently is usually very helpful for the public who have trouble understanding the planning and zoning process anyway," he said.

Stephens stepped in and said, "I think the public’s a lot smarter than you’re giving them credit for Mr. Redniss."

The P&Z will reconvene Feb. 25.