State rep scolds Milford leaders for housing vote

Larry Butler, a state representative from Waterbury, told city leaders Thursday night that the city made him look bad when it voted to omit affordable housing from a proposed 168-unit apartment complex planned for Plains Road.

Butler, who is also House chairman of the state Housing Committee, told Milford’s Board of Aldermen at their monthly meeting that he went to bat for Milford, fighting other state officials who insisted Milford was one of those “not in my backyard” communities that didn’t want affordable housing here for reasons based on prejudice.

Butler told the aldermen that after trying for three years to amend the affordable housing law known as 8-30g, lawmakers changed the regulation recently following a divisive battle in Hartford.

“We went out there, and we actually created a bill,” Butler said. “We actually passed a bill in the House and Senate and the governor vetoed it, and we worked hard enough to overcome the governor’s veto.”

Legislators who didn’t want to change the affordable housing law criticized Butler for backing the change and for sticking up for cities like Milford that said they supported affordable housing but had problems with the 8-30g law.

He said the recent Planning and Zoning Board vote troubled him, and that’s why he drove all the way from Waterbury to Milford Thursday night to talk to the aldermen.

In August, the Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) voted 6-3 to approve changes to allow a proposed 168-unit apartment complex to be built without affordable housing. As part of its application, Metro 150 LLC requested three changes to the zoning regulations: The most important was dropping the requirement that a free-standing apartment complex in the Corridor Design Development District 1 (CDD-1) have 30% of its units designated as affordable.

The developer argued that he wanted to build upscale apartments and did not want to market to people with lower incomes.

Butler said that P&Z vote suggests he was wrong in sticking up for Milford.

“It troubles me because I spent three years telling the rest of the state that Milford isn’t one of those towns,” Butler said, adding that he hopes the board and mayor will reflect on that decision, and let people know it wasn’t helpful to Milford.

He pleaded with the aldermen to start being proactive in building affordable housing in Milford. The recently revised state affordable housing law encourages creation of incentive housing zones, and grants increased points for affordable housing built in those zones. Once the required number of points is achieved, Milford can apply for a four-year moratorium, thus being free from the threat of developers overriding local zoning to squeeze affordable housing units onto small lots in single family neighborhoods. A subsequent moratorium would be for five years.

“You can prove that my believing in you was right,” Butler said. “Please prove me right.”

“This one housing development isn’t worth Milford’s credibility,” Butler added.

Last month, State Housing Commissioner Evonne Klein asked Mayor Ben Blake to denounce the P&Z vote, saying that it “may be interpreted as regressive and exclusionary.”

Blake did not denounce the vote, but rather said he believed the board voted as it saw fit to approve a project that will add vibrancy to that area of Plains Road and the Boston Post Road. The apartments are just one piece of the development plan, and overall the plan is a good one, the mayor said.

State Rep. Kim Rose, however, did denounce the vote. She has spoken out about the need to build affordable housing in Milford where it is appropriate, and she attended Thursday’s Board of Aldermen’s meeting with Butler.

Rose has argued over the past few months, as she and other state legislators debated the revision to the 8-30g law, that Milford has to continue to encourage the development of affordable housing units so the city can reach the minimum requirement set forth in the law and be granted a moratorium.