Both neighbors and commission members hammered away at plans for an 11-unit multifamily development on four-tenths of an acre off North Street on Tuesday night, Nov. 20, at the first public hearing session on the application under the state’s affordable housing law.
“If my property, and my neighbors’ property, becomes more damaged, someone will he held accountable,” John Delio of 42 North Street warned ominously.
“North Street is David, and in this project, it’s going to meet its Goliath,” said John Brennan of Stonecrest Road.
They were among six neighbors to speak at the first session of a public hearing on the proposed development at 24 North Street. Neighbors raised concerns like density and aesthetics, but focused most intently on drainage.
“I had three uprooted trees during the storm,” Mr. Delio said. “If there’s an additional flow from this property, it will be detrimental to my property.”
The application by Ridgefield Modular Home Corporation will have four of its 11 units “affordable” under state guidelines, meeting the 30% which qualifies it for consideration under state statute 8-30g, the affordable housing law that negates most of the zoning regulations — density, setbacks, etc. — that normally govern new developments.
The proposal also drew harsh criticism from members of the Planning and Zoning Commission, which will conduct a second hearing session Tuesday, Dec. 18.
“It seems to me to have no respect for the people who live there,” said commissioner John Katz. “I wonder if any consideration was given to the neighborhood, or the neighbors — because it sure as hell doesn’t look like it.”
Mr. Katz objected to the aesthetic impact putting the 11-unit multifamily development on less half an acre.
“It’s just so vulgar, and untidy and unnecessary, it seems to me,” he said.
But attorney Catherine Cuggino, representing Ridgefield Modular Home, said the plans reflected density and aesthetics similar to those the commission had approved earlier this year for an affordable housing project at the corner of Gilbert Street and New Street.
“Are we blatantly ignoring the commission and the neighbors? No,” she said. “We’re willing to listen. This is the first meeting.”
“I’m delighted with your flexibility,” Mr. Katz replied.
About 20 neighbors turned out, and six spoke.
“It doesn’t fit in my neighborhood,” said Will Sibley of 4 North Street. “My neighborhood is a bunch of small ranches.”
He recalled that he had to get a lot coverage variance to put a small addition on his home, because he felt adding a second floor would be inappropriate in the neighborhood.
Now four new buildings, three and a half stories high, with 11 units and parking for 25 cars — seven outside, 18 under the units — were to be crammed onto half an acre.
“Really? That’s unbelievable to me,” he said.
But he and other neighbors devoted much of their time to storm water problems in the area, which they fear will be made dramatically worse by having the half-acre — now mostly lawn — covered with pavement and roof surfaces that do not absorb water.
The lot drains into a nearby wetland, and is adjacent to an unfinished section of nearby Robert’s Lane. The area is very wet, he said.
“In springtime, it’s six inches under water,” Mr. Sibley said. “What I’m wondering is how storm water management is going to handle any of that.
“If I don’t have muck boots on in the spring, I can’t walk down Roberts Lane.”
The applicants’ engineer, Michael Mazzucco, said that the storm water system designed for the project would actually reduce the “peak flow” off the site to less than what it currently is during heavy rain.
Commission members said that while the “peak flow” — the rate at which storm water flows off the site — was important, they were also concerned about the total volume of water leaving the property. With so much natural landscape replaced by “impervious surfaces” additional water would surely drain to the neighboring wetland, commissioners said.
Christina Ripullone of 48 North Street read a letter on behalf of several neighbors.
“Any outflow will find its way onto downstream properties and adjacent wetlands,” Ms. Ripullone said. “These properties already experience ponding…”
She expressed doubt that an engineered drainage system would solve the problem.
“There appear to be no plausible options,” she said.
With 11 units on 0.411 acres, she said, the plan had a density of more than 26 units per acre, while the neighborhood’s R-20 zone allowed roughly two units per acre.
The project proposes seven two-bedroom units and four one-bedroom units, putting 18 bedrooms on a site that she said previously had just a three bedroom house.
There were questions about sewer capacity. Water Pollution Control Authority chairman Max Caldwell had written Town Planner Betty Brosius on Oct. 7, saying: “The last monthly operators report for the South Street plant showed that it was operating at 59% capacity” and that “the addition of 10 or 11 units would add 0.2% to the flow into the South Street plant, which would be minimal.”
Murat Yasanliel, who lives at 18 North Street next door to the project site, worried that having new buildings so close to the property line would harm trees there.
“This building is going to be very close to my property, and on the border I have all these trees. How is this going to affect the root system of these trees?” he said.
“I don’t want to end up with them falling down.”
Attorney Cuggino said the applicant had a report from a tree service about the trees along the property line. “It seems most of these trees are already dead or dying,” she said.
Mr. Yasanliel also asked if the developer would build a wall along the border, to protect his privacy.
“No wall, just plantings,” replied Michael Mazzucco, the developer’s engineer.
Helen Dimos, a resident of nearby Barlow Mountain Road and a member of the Architectural Advisory Committee, said she was speaking as a private citizen, not a committee member. She said the dense multifamily project was inappropriate for the neighborhood of small cozy homes.
“One of the aspects of the neighborhood are the cemeteries. They’re like a park,” she said. “There are trees along the road.”
But the proposal crowded too much construction onto too small a lot, she said.
“I think this is an abomination — this proposal, on that site,” Ms. Dimos said.