Grillo plan resubmitted: Seeking fewer 'affordable' apartments

The developer of a proposed apartment complex with an affordable component at 553 West Ave. is resubmitting plans for the project, following the Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Board’s Oct. 3 approval with conditions.

The board voted 6-2 to approve the project’s special permit and site plan with the conditions that the required number of affordable units be 40%, instead of the 30% minimum required under the state’s 8-30g law that regulates such projects. Plans call for two buildings containing a total of 342 units and two parking garages with 512 total spaces.

In an email regarding the board’s decision, Attorney Thomas Lynch, representing applicants Michael and Lawrence Grillo, wrote that the requirement for 34 additional units to be rented at affordable rates “is a huge financial hit.”

Prior to the board’s Oct. 17 meeting, Lynch said he is submitting a modified application that would increase the number of affordable units by five to 108 apartments from the original proposal of 103 affordable units. The board’s decision would have required 137 affordable units. The date for the new hearing has not been set.

Lynch said there are two cases in Connecticut where a zoning board increased the required number of affordable units in an 8-30g application. When the applicant appealed the decision, the court upheld the appeal. He said that Justice Marshall K. Berger, who is the presiding judge on the Superior Court’s Land Use Litigation Docket, issued one of those rulings.

“The board does not have the statutory authority to require an applicant to have a number of affordable units exceeding the 30% minimum,” said Lynch.

Lynch said the Grillos accept the other conditions imposed by the board. These include requiring the developer to install two traffic lights on Schoolhouse Road, one at each of the I-95 ramps.

A third condition was meeting any requirements suggested by City Engineer Gregory Pidluski. A fourth condition was requiring installation of sidewalks along the property’s West Avenue frontage.

The final condition requires that the project undergo a hydraulic and hydrological analysis to prove that it will not increase flooding in the area.

If the board does not agree to the revised plans, the 8-30g statute permits an applicant to appeal an approval with conditions to the court if such conditions have a “substantial adverse impact on the viability of the development,” wrote Lynch in an email.

At the close of the public hearing on Oct. 3, Lynch said the city’s professionals from the police and fire departments, and the Sewer Commission all approved their portions of the project, demonstrating that the proposal meets the public health and safety standard of the law.

The resubmitted project would come before the board as a public hearing, allowing residents to comment on the revised proposal. About 40 to 60 residents attended the hearings on the original proposal, and about 13 on average spoke in opposition to the project, asking the board to deny the application.

The 8-30g law overrides local zoning regulations, and allows the board to deny a project only if it can prove the project would pose a threat to public health, safety, or welfare, which would override the need for affordable housing. Any 8-30g project that the Milford P&Z has denied has been approved by the court through the appeals process.