Weston zoning commission approves plan to address affordable housing

Weston Town Hall at 56 Norfield Road in Weston.

Weston Town Hall at 56 Norfield Road in Weston.

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WESTPORT — A study is underway to find out the best way to address affordable housing in town.

The Planning and Zoning commission voted 6 to 1 to accept a proposal by Milone and Macbroom to develop a plan for affordable housing on Tuesday. Commissioner Britta Lerner opposed.

The plan comes as the state legislature plans to tackle affordable housing in the coming months.

Mike Zuba, of Milone and Macbroom, said there were several potential strategies, but as of now was unclear which the planning process may point to. The process is expected to take three to four months to complete.

“Ultimately what we’re seeing with that is a mother document similar to that of the POCD and town master plan where we’re going to enshrine not only the latest and greatest data that we’re able to pull together, but a summary of the input,” Zuba said.

The work would include reviewing size of accessory dwelling units, whether or not the new Village District could accommodate affordable housing, and if there were areas in the town to support cluster-type subdivisions. It would also give greater direction on what residents want through community input, Zuba said.

“The plan isn’t going to put together a document that says we have to do this, it’s saying we should look to consider doing this,” he said.

Milone and Macbroom has often been used by the Board of Education as demographers to help predict student population in years to come.

Commissioner Harry Falber questioned if this information on student enrollment could affect the affordable housing study. He further questioned if the town could develop affordable housing for seniors that precludes children as residents.

Zuba said they are aware of what the school system could absorb, and different types of housing are being seen now for retirees, empty nesters and downsizers.

“Ultimately I think the types of housing we’re talking about is a different product that you haven’t seen here, and it’s something that by design isn’t going to be a huge school-age generator,” Zuba said.

Commissioners voiced some concern for the uncertainty of what may play out in the legislative session, and how that may impact local regulations.

But Lerner said the commission’s primary responsibility is to Weston, and the town has already explored a lot of options through it’s Plan of Conservation and Development.

“Where I think we missed the mark a little bit, and it’s a bit more difficult, is to look at what Weston can affordably bear — the economic models of what we suggest,” Lerner said, adding the commission needed to step back and figure out what’s best for Westonites.

Commissioner Richard Wolf said the town has to show it’s serious about addressing affordable housing. He said in past years the town has persistently attempted to defeat the acceptance of any other type of housing besides one house or two acres.

“We have to decide that we really are committed to this — the issue of affordable housing or housing diversification,” Wolf said.