Wheelers Farms Road housing decision heads to court

A proposed 180-unit apartment complex on Wheelers Farms Road takes its next step in court on Monday, Nov. 9 at 2 p.m. in Hartford.

On Aug. 14, Milford Developers LLC of Chatham, N.J. appealed the Planning and Zoning Board’s Aug. 4 denial of its project, which was filed under the state’s affordable housing law, 8-30g. The law overrides local zoning regulations, and places the burden of proof on the city as to why the project was denied.

Timothy Hollister, attorney for Milford Developers, wrote in a Nov. 2 email that attorneys for Milford and the developer will appeal before a judge to discuss the case. Hollister wrote that this step is routine and preliminary with only the lawyers attending.

At the Oct. 20 P&Z meeting, the board rejected a court-ordered settlement for an earlier 8-30g affordable housing application, one at 86 Pond Point Avenue.

Prior to that vote, city attorney Jonathan Berchem told the board that Justice Marshall K. Berger, presiding judge of the Superior Court’s Land Use Litigation Docket, has issued 22 decisions on 8-30g applications and all have been in favor of the developer.

To successfully deny a project, a board has to prove that threats to public health and safety from the project outweigh the need for affordable housing.

Such proof will be difficult to supply in the Wheelers Woods case, given that most city departments and commissions approved the project. The exception was the Police Commission, which made a negative recommendation based on the fact that the project did not meet Milford’s parking requirements. However, an 8-30g application is not bound by those requirements, which is not a public health and safety consideration.

The project has been bitterly opposed by residents of Wheelers Farms and East Rutland roads, who attended the many public hearings for the project, and raised concerns about increased traffic, water run-off, and potential contaminants based on past use of the property as an auto salvage facility.