Strike three for controversial development

ORANGE - A housing application that has been denied twice by the Inland Wetlands and Watercourse Commission was denied last week by the Town Plan and Zoning Commission.

The applicant, Dean Fiske of Ravenswood Homes in Cheshire, filed with zoning while appealing the IWC's decision and was denied by TPZ in a unanimous vote (with one member absent.) No decision on the appeal has been forthcoming.


Fiske expressed disappointment with the decision.

"I was not pleased but expected it after a couple of the public hearings," Fiske said.

"I thought the town would be amendable to senior affordable housing since there is a need for it in town," Fiske said.

TPZ Chairman Walter Clark IV said the project was not a good fit for the site. "The application had numerous health and safety concerns, which more than overrode the benefits of 22 affordable units," Clark said.

"The health and safety concerns were both to the potential residents and downstream and surrounding areas," Clark said.

"Everything about the application at best was marginal," Clark added. "As a whole represents a threat to the health, safety and welfare of the community," Clark added.

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 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 application Fiske hoped to build 72 units in six buildings with 22 units designated affordable. The second floor units will be 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 said so far, with the three application 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 for a number of health and safety reasons, members stated.

Vice chairwoman Judith Smith-Morgan said, "Upon a complete analysis of the proposal, the numerous public safety issues presented at the public hearings, clearly outweighed the need for affordable housing."

Some of the reasons cited by the commission include:

* 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 will be appealing the decision through the court system.

"I am fully confident this project will be built. There are state statutes for affordable housing. The town has an obligation to provide 10 percent of their housing stock for affordable housing," Fiske said.