Zoning board reviews Pond Point Avenue housing proposal again Wednesday

Barry Lawless has a picture of himself canoeing in his Pauline Street yard after moderately heavy rain flooded the area.

Lawless lives near Pond Point Avenue, where a housing development is planned. He was among many people who stood up at a hearing last week to tell city zoning board members there’s too much water and too much traffic in the area to consider another housing development.

Residents have been protesting a 22-unit housing proposal on Pond Point Avenue with signs and neighborhood meetings. The plan has been filed under the 8-30g affordable housing law, which gives developers the upper hand in gaining approval for a project.

While a few residents have spoken of their concern about “affordable housing,” others said that is not the point: Affordable or not, they don’t want to see the woods in the neighborhood paved over with concrete.

The Pond Point Avenue proposal calls for building 22 triplex and duplex, condominium-style units on 2.7 acres of undeveloped woodland at 86 Pond Point Avenue. Seven of the units would be sold to people who earn 60% or 80% of the median income, which means they would go to families earning $38,000 to $58,000 a year. The units will sell for $111,000 to $258,000. An existing house already at the site would remain, under the current plan.

Attorney Danielle Bercury of the firm Harlow, Adams and Friedman, representing the Pond Point Avenue property owner Colberg LLC, said she understands that many residents are concerned about losing the woods.

“But this is not open space,” she said. “This is privately owned property.”

The attorney added that the owner would be willing to sell the land to the city or a land trust, though she didn’t mention a price.

Residents spent several hours last week talking about their concerns, from snow removal at the proposed site to endangered box turtles spotted there to the potential health problems that could arise from more traffic and car fumes.

“Why must we overdevelop every piece of green?” asked resident Ann Lambiase.

Susan Lukas, who lives on Pond Point Avenue, said it’s already hard pulling into her driveway without the additional cars a development would bring.

“I’ve had many close calls due to the heavy volume of traffic,” she said. “People are on our backs leaning on their horns as we try to turn into our driveways.”

Resident Steven Stern said the developer is not using the affordable housing law per its intent. He said the law is meant to help people who cannot afford housing to get appropriate homes. Developers, he said, use the law so they can build denser developments than a municipality’s zoning allows.

“This was created as a shield to protect people who can’t afford housing,” Stern said. “Instead of using it as a shield, the developers are using it as a sword.”

Resident Robert Fiore followed up, saying that this kind of housing belongs on Route 1 and similar areas where traffic designs, water and sewer accommodations and public transportation are already in place.

Attorney Bercury, however, said people have a right to live in more rural parts of the town.

A special meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 11, starting at 7:30 p.m. at Milford City Hall, so the Planning and Zoning Board can process more information before voting on the proposal. The board has asked for more input from Community Block Grant Coordinator Tom Ivers regarding affordable housing.

According to Ivers, a city must have 10% of its housing set aside as affordable in order to be exempt from the affordable housing regulations.

Milford’s affordable housing is currently at 6.3%.

“So we’re not even close,” Ivers said after an earlier meeting.

The board also wanted to time to look over information from State Sen. Gayle Slossberg, who has been speaking out on behalf of the residents.

The P&Z board is trying to wrap up a number of issues, including the Pond Point Avenue proposal, before new board members take their place in January.

Chairman Mark Bender said last week that he thinks the board will probably vote on the Pond Point Avenue plan at its Dec. 17 meeting.