Residents pack hearing to oppose apartment plan
About 20 neighbors spoke at a Planning & Zoning meeting in opposition to an apartment plan on New Haven Avenue Tuesday night. One neighbor said the plan to put eight housing units on a parcel of land just over half an acre “is sickening.”
The plan calls for building an eight-unit housing development at 1556 New Haven Avenue, on property that once housed the late Dr. Jan Fugal's pediatric practice.
Bella Properties Milford is asking for a special permit to build two buildings on the .62-acre parcel and leave the existing house, in which Dr. Fugal practiced. The single-family house would become a two-family house. The two additional buildings at the rear of the property would include three apartments each. All of the apartments would be two-bedroom.
The developer has filed the plan under the state's affordable housing statute — known as 8-30g. That means the project does not have to meet existing zoning regulations as long as a certain percentage of the units will be rented to people who make between 60% and 80% of the median income.
Attorney Kevin Curseaden, representing the property owner, said the plan meets the state's affordable housing regulations.
Jeff Gordon, site planner and landscape architect with Codespoti & Associates, said the proposal also meets state objective that affordable housing be spread throughout a community and not isolated in one area.
One affordable housing unit would be located in each of the two new buildings, and the upstairs of the existing house would be the third affordable unit. Gordon said he doesn't expect families with children to rent at the site because of the limited green area for playing.
There was apparently some concern as the plans were being developed regarding fire department access to the new buildings in the rear of the property. Gordon said a driveway expansion and apron will make it possible for the city's biggest fire truck, Tower 1, to access the property. He also said the new buildings will be equipped with sprinkler systems and fire safety walls.
Resident Lynne McNamee started the long line of neighbors who spoke against the plan. She talked about the size of the buildings in relation to the size of the lot.
“I can't believe this was the intent of 8-30g,” McNamee said.
Wendy Fitzgerald Held agreed. “My concerns are that there are no regulations that apply because it is affordable housing,” she said. “We're not talking about eight people; we're talking about eight families in a very tiny space.”
The property owner’s representatives took exception to that, saying that the state gives cities like Milford the power to create their own zoning regulations but that the state can override those city regulations.
“This is not a loophole in the law,” Attorney Curseaden said. “This plan complies completely with 8-30g. It's the law in the State of Connecticut.”
Residents said traffic is a concern on the busy road. Many said there are flooding issues, especially after heavy rains when many of their basements fill with water. Despite assurances from the site planner that drainage would be properly managed, residents said they believe the development will worsen their flooding issues.
Resident William Stark said affordable housing should be situated in an area that has adequate public transportation and safe pedestrian access. The site has neither, he said, explaining that there are limited bus routes along that stretch of New Haven Avenue, no crosswalks and few sidewalks for pedestrians.
Former Alderman Barbara Genovese also spoke. She said, “I have concerns. In the back it is so small considering what they want to put in there. With snow, there is no way Tower 1 is going to get back there. Woodmont cares about everybody; we're not against affordable housing. This is just a bad area to put something like this.”
Residents said they hate to lose the trees and the wooded area that will be cleared for the project, but Gordon pointed out the land “is private property; not a public park.”
One resident said he isn't against affordable housing put pointed out that a city cannot reach its 10% affordable housing quota with this kind of plan: Builders increase the total housing stock when they build a project, and they only make a small percentage 'affordable.'
“The law has to be changed,” he said. “It's not only immoral, it's sickening.”
Another resident had similar concerns about the law. He said he owns several pieces of property in Woodmont, including an apartment building on Hawley Avenue.
“I'm concerned about the precedent,” he said. “Twelve of my apartments fit under the guidelines of affordable housing. Does that mean I can build more units on my parking lot? This is kind of an opportunity for me. I don't have any intention of doing that, but I want to know if the board is considering the implication. “
Public hearing continued
The state affordable housing regulation has been in place about 20 years, and Gordon said he's presented many affordable housing plans in those years. Seldom have neighbors liked the plans. “Everyone's for it, just not here,” Gordon said.
The public hearing remains open so the Planning and Zoning Board can get answers to several questions. Board member Jeanne Cervin wants to hear from the city's fair housing representative, Tom Ivers, about his view of the plan. She also wants details on where dumpsters would be located on the site.
James Quish had some general safety concerns he wants addressed, such as pedestrian safety in the area.