Lakeside Village appeals Planning and Zoning decision

ORANGE - The developer of a housing application that was denied by both the Inland Wetlands and Watercourse Commission and Town Plan and Zoning Commissions has now appealed the decisions of both commissions.

The applicant, Dean Fiske of Ravenswood Homes in Cheshire, filed his second appeal last week with the Superior Court judicial district of Ansonia/Milford.

In his appeal Fiske claims that the plaintiff's denial is unlawful and failed to satisfy the commissions' burden to prove that each reason for denial is supported by sufficient evidence and that each reason for denial is supported as well as each reason for denial is necessary to protect public interest in health, safety or welfare.

When asked why he was appealing the decision Fiske said he believed he had grounds to win.

"We feel the zoning decision was improper and the reasons for denial were wrong," Fiske said.

Fiske said he stands by his application.

"We feel we have a well-conceived and designed development which fulfills the affordable housing statute which meets and exceeds all local and state regulations," Fiske said.

Town Plan and Zoning Commission Chairman Walter E. Clark IV responded to the appeal

"I expected this because of the way the applicant was presented," Clark said.

"In general it is one of the poorest applications I have seen. It became obvious as the process went on that they were looking for approval by the court and not the town of Orange," Clark said.

Clark said his commission thoroughly reviewed the application before denying it unanimously.

"As a commission we looked at all the pluses and minuses and there were a lot more minuses. The commission did a thorough job of evaluating the application," Clark said.

Town Attorney Vin Marino said he is prepared to defend the commissions 'denial.

"The Town Plan and Zoning Commission balanced the need for affordable housing in Orange with the substantial public interest concerns raised by the area residents. We are prepared to defend this matter to uphold the commission's denial," Marino said.

Fiske had hoped to build Lakeside Village, an age-restricted condominium complex with an affordable component.

The proposed site consisted of 24.2 acres of undeveloped land adjacent to the town's transfer station and Indian River Lake. Fiske has been attempting to build on this particular parcel for a number of years. He originally approached the IWC in 2002 with conceptual plans. He subsequently filed an application and began the process starting with eight buildings totaling 92 units each with a garage.

Fiske has said the location, just off the Boston Post Road was a "natural spot" for the development.

"You need to have sewers for multi-family dwellings and this was perfect," he said.

This latest application Fiske hoped to build 72 units in six buildings with 22 units designated affordable. The second floor units would have been constructed with elevators being optional at an additional cost to the owners. The cost for an elevator was estimated to be between $20,000 to $30,000. It was stated by the developer that approximately half of the affordable units would be located on the second floor.

Fiske has said that so far, with the three applications and denials he has spent "several hundred thousand" attempting to get Lakeside Village built. He said those costs will be factored into the selling price of the units once built.

The Commission denied the application citing in a report a number of health and safety reasons including:

* Tight parking and turning radius hazards in emergencies

* No place for the parking of extra vehicles per household or visitor or delivery vehicles.

* Any emergency vehicles would more than likely be impeded by vehicles parked on the narrow roadways due to inadequate parking.

* Part of the development would be over an old landfill and no information was provided on the potential hazards of methane gas or other pollutants which could possibly be released. Threats to the structural integrity were questioned due to the potential for uneven settling of the soil.

* The proposed emergency access is located through the transfer station and the emergency gate is proposed to be locked and closed at all times. "Housing that is not safe from fire is not approvable," the decision reads.

* The traffic authority rejected the traffic plans because it created a significant safety issue at the entrance to the development which would have been South Orange Center Road adjacent to the entrance to the transfer station.

* Concerns regarding on-site and off-site flooding were expressed.

The applicant had requested to amend the zoning regulation for a Planned Residential Elderly/Affordable Development (PREAD). This also was denied because it would have increased building heights and reduced buffering.

Additionally, it would have permitted development of a dense nature in a location in town that is already plagued with flooding.

Fiske said he stands by his plans.

"I have total confidence the project will move forward," Fiske said.