Developer appeals Seaside Avenue decision

The developer and the neighbors of a proposed nine-unit housing complex at 214-224 Seaside Avenue can agree on one thing: Neither was happy with the July 5 Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) decision to approve an eight-unit project.

Neighbors were not pleased because they want to see the properties remain with the two existing single-family houses, and the developer was dissatisfied with the P&Z decision to remove one unit from the plan.

As a result, the developer filed an appeal in Superior Court on Aug. 2 seeking to have one of the nine-unit plans approved. Based on similar 8-30g affordable housing applications in Milford, the only question to be answered is which version of the project will the judge approve — the original, the resubmission, or the board-approved version? At times the court has overturned the P&Z denials, and at times it has ordered the P&Z and the developer to reach a settlement.

Eugenia Debowski of Acworth, Georgia, owns the two adjacent lots, each with an existing single-family home on Seaside Avenue, just north of Meadowside Road. The 0.46-acre property at 214 Seaside Avenue has a 2,100 square foot home constructed in 1947, while the 0.72-acre lot at 224 Seaside Avenue has an 1,800 square foot home constructed in 1900.

Attorney Joy Topazian Moore filed the appeal on behalf of Isabel and Derek Debowski of Acworth, Georgia, who are listed as “duly appointed co-conservators” for Eugenia.

At its April 5 meeting, the P&Z denied the original application, which called for retaining the two homes and building seven single-family cottages in the backyard, along with two garages closer to the street. The board cited safety concerns regarding driveway sightlines and vehicle speed on Seaside Avenue.

Jeffrey Gordon, landscape architect, site planner, and president of Codespoti & Associates, who designed the project, presented modified plans to the board that called for demolishing the existing house at 224 Seaside Avenue, constructing eight cottages, and moving the driveway to 214 Seaside Avenue, to address sightline concerns.

Both projects encountered fierce opposition from nearby neighbors who said the traffic conditions are already unsafe on Seaside Avenue, due to vehicle speeds that are in excess of the posted 25 mile per hour limit.

A divided board approved a modified project on July 5 by removing one of the new units, and requiring that signs be placed on Seaside Avenue to mitigate traffic concerns.

Both plans would have designated three units for rent at affordable rates to people earning 80% or less of the area’s median income.

In the appeal, Topazian wrote that the board’s decision would “have a substantial adverse impact on the viability of the affordable housing development or the degree of affordability of the affordable dwelling units.”

Topazian wrote that the board “ignored substantial evidence that the application met the statutory requirements” under the 8-30g state statute for approval of an affordable housing project.

“It did not have adequate basis or sufficient evidence in the record for its decision to impose the modified application,” wrote Topazian.

In addition, she wrote that the board did not identify any specific problems with the plan that could not be eliminated by “reasonable design modifications,” roadway, or other site improvements.

“There is no evidence in the record of a quantifiable probability that a specific harm to the public interest will result if the application were approved,” wrote Topazian.

The plan was filed under the state’s 8-30g affordable housing law, which supersedes local zoning regulations. To prevail in court, the P&Z has to prove the project poses a hazard to public health, safety or welfare, a threat that outweighs the need for affordable housing.