233 Danbury Road: Hearing for affordable housing proposal continues tonight

Ray Sullivan, of The Sullivan Architectural Group, presents developer Marty Handshy’s plan to build a 30-unit apartment building at 233 Danbury Road to the Planning and Zoning Commission. The project would include affordable housing units under the state’s 8-30g law. The town’s four-year moratorium on 8-30g developments ends on Oct. 7. — Peter Yankowski photo

A proposed three-story building with 30 age-restricted housing units at 233 Danbury Road — a lot near the rec center — is headed back to public hearing Tuesday, Oct. 9.

The plan was submitted by Ridgefielder Marty Handshy under 8-30g, the state’s affordable-housing law that incentivizes builders to include price-restricted housing in their developments. In exchange, the law allows builders to skirt local zoning rules, allowing them to build without town restrictions on building size, height, or housing density.

“It gives [developers] preferential treatment in court,” Planning and Zoning Chairwoman Rebbeca Mucchetti told The Press on Oct. 8.

If a town rejects an application under 8-30g, “the municipality would have to prove in court that the need for public housing is outweighed by public health and safety,” she said.

Nine of the 30 units included in the proposed plan would be set aside as affordable housing. Of those, five would be restricted to tenants making 60% of the state median income, while four would be restricted to tenants making 80% of the state median income.

All of the units will be sold, not rented, and all would be restricted to tenants ages 55 and older.

Petition

Neighbors of the proposed site say they want it built elsewhere.

“Turning residentially zoned areas into apartment buildings will chase away those who moved here for schools, privacy, and Main Street,” said Tanton Hill Road resident Joann Zettl, in a letter to the editor that ran in the Oct. 4 edition of The Press.

At stake for neighbors are concerns that the building will fundamentally change the neighborhood character, and that such a large development will create traffic snarls. They also argued it would put additional strain on water drainage and town’s public service departments — chiefly police, fire and highway.

Zettle has created an online petition with her husband, Marc, calling for residents to protest the building’s approval with the town Planning and Zoning Commission, because they claim it would negatively impact the rec center walking path that runs near the site.

The Zettls live on Tanton Hill Road near the proposed site.

As of noon on Monday, Oct. 8, the petition had acquired 106 signatures out of a goal of 1,000.

Support

While six neighbors — all residents of either Conley Court or Tanton Hill Road — turned out to voice their opposition to the project when the public hearing opened on Sept. 19, other residents showed up to support Handshy’s development.

Danbury Road resident Kelby Edwards told the commission that he is excited for the project, because it would give residents with adult children who have special needs an affordable place to live.

Several current residents of Handshy’s other development, the age-restricted townhouse complex at 77 Sunset Lane, also said they were in favor.

Several echoed that they were “the lucky ones” who found housing in the complex, which meant that they could continue to afford living in Ridgefield after retirement.

Mucchetti said the meeting will begin with the applicant, responding to concerns raised during peer-review and public comment on Sept. 19. The commission and their peer-review experts will then have a chance to ask questions, before the meeting turns over to public comment. She suggested that she might open the meeting with an explainer on the commission’s role and limitations on 8-30g applications.

Editor’s note: an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that public comment had closed for the 233 Danbury Road application. Members of the public will have the opportunity to speak on Tuesday, Oct. 9. 

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