Like boomerangs, affordable housing proposals come back

From the perspective of a Planning and Zoning Board, 8-30g affordable housing applications can be likened to boomerangs because, when thrown out, they quickly come back to those who tossed them.
In June 2014, the P&Z rejected a proposal for adding seven apartments to a 0.62-acre parcel with an existing house at 1556 New Haven Avenue. The zone is R-7.5, which restricts houses to one-family in design. The application was filed under the state's affordable housing regulations, Connecticut General Statute 8-30g, which overrides local zoning regulations.
The applicant, Bella Properties, appealed the denial to the Litigation Docket, which returned the proposal to the P&Z board in January 2015 to settle with the developer. The board conducted four executive sessions from January to March to discuss the proposed settlement.
Without comment, the board voted unanimously at its April 7 meeting to approve the negotiated settlement, which includes some concessions on the part of the developer.
The largest change is retaining the house as a single-family use, reducing the property to seven apartments, of which two will be designated for rent at the 80% affordability rate. The plan still includes the construction of two buildings at the rear with three apartments each.
Safety considerations will be addressed with the addition of sprinklers in the proposed building, a raised sidewalk along the side of the existing house, and a one-way entrance and exit to the parking lot.
The proposal now moves to the Litigation Docket for a court hearing to decide on the proposed settlement. The hearing will take place May 7 at 10 a.m. at the court, 95 Washington Street, Hartford.
Bic Drive Plan Heads to Court
A similar process will take place now that the P&Z has rejected a proposed 257-unit apartment building with an affordable component at 460 Bic Drive, at the corner of Naugatuck Avenue. The board voted 8-2 at its April 7 meeting to deny the application.
Following the meeting, Attorney Thomas Lynch commented on the board's decision by saying that he had already held a conference call on the pending decision with Judge Marshall K. Berger Jr. of the Litigation Docket, and Milford Trial Counsel Matthew Woods.
“The record contains nothing that would lead to the denial, based on public health and safety,” said Lynch. He plans to appeal the denial on behalf of Garden Homes Residential of Stamford, which submitted the plan under the state's affordable housing regulations
In the Land Use Litigation Docket, which is a special branch of the Superior Court designed to hear 8-30g appeals, the burden of proof rests strongly on the land use boards to prove that any denied project has a public health or safety issue that outweighs the goal of encouraging affordable housing.
The board hosted three public hearings on the project, one in January and two in February, which drew concerns from both industrial and residential neighbors.
In rejecting the Bic Drive application, the board cited a number of safety concerns, which had been raised by neighbors. Concerns included low water pressure for domestic use and fire protection, restricted vehicle access, an increase in traffic at Bic Drive and Naugatuck Avenue, and blasting that could endanger the Iroquois gas pipeline that crosses the site.
As stated in the motion to deny, the site access issues include the one driveway entrance with restricted directional turning, and “the lack of a second means of access for emergency vehicles to enter the site.”
Board member Jim Quish asked if the P&Z would delay voting on the motion until the following meeting, giving it time to review the language, and add stronger language for denial.
“We know this is going to court,” said Quish. “The only thing we can stand on in court is the language of the motion. It does not elaborate on the issues.”
Quish was able to have the board unanimously add to the language of the draft motion, including adding traffic concerns for Schoolhouse Road at Rt. 1, an inadequate and potentially dangerous parking situation, emergency access in heavy snow conditions, and “the stress level of the neighbors.”
Board Chairman Benjamin Gettinger and board member John Grant were the two people who did not support the vote to deny. Gettinger said, “Having been on this board for a while, I know what is going to happen at the court level. This application satisfies safety requirements.”
Single-Family House Approved
The board did have one application on the agenda that did not involve affordable housing, a request that it quickly and unanimously approved. Lynch presented an application for a coastal area management site plan review on behalf of Christine Timko, whose house at 137 Milford Point Road was damaged by both Hurricanes Irene and Sandy.
Lynch said the Zoning Board of Appeals denied a previous application to raze the house and replace it with another one. The board's minutes from December 2013 indicate the board voted against that plan because it would have expanded the non-conformity of the lot. He said a cottage closer to the road was not damaged by the storm, and is not part of this plan.
In the application before the P&Z, architect Paul Holub said the house would be raised to an elevation of 16 feet, which is two feet above the flood level. Holub said the elevated house will retain the “exact same footprint of the old house, minus several sections.” The side closest to the sea wall will be reduced by about 40 to 50 square feet. The covered porch will be enclosed, as part of the renovation.