Ridgebury affordable project still faces permit issues and possible town meeting
Some bureaucratic and legal hurdles — possibly including a town meeting vote — remain for a hotly contested nine-unit affordable housing development planned in Ridgebury.
The project got a grudging approval from Ridgefield’s Planning and Zoning Commission back in May. The developer, Black Oaks LLC, brought the development plan in under the state affordable housing statute 8-30g, which allows developers to ignore most zoning rules when building projects in which at least 30 percent of residential units will meet state affordability guidelines.
Neighbors from the Turner Hill development had opposed the plan vigorously, and the commission had a lot of concerns. But commissioners didn’t feel that had legal grounds to vote the application down under the strictures of 8-30g, which the legislature passed years ago to crack suburban resistance to affordable housing.
First Selectman Rudy Marconi said the plan — calling for nine units on about an acre at Turner Road and Barnum Place — will still need to satisfy Ridgefield’s fire marshal and building department before permits are issued to proceed with the project.
And then they’ll have to resolve an outstanding issue concerning the use of town land.
“P&Z approved it,” Marconi said, giving the Board of Selectmen’s June 24 meeting an update on the project’s status. “The applicants still need to secure permits from Fire Department and Building Department. That process is going on now.”
Marconi said the town’s attorney, Dave Grogins, was in touch with the developer’s attorney, Brain Smith, concerning requirements that still need to be met to satisfy the fire marshal.
Among the questions is whether the site plan allows adequate access for fire trucks and ambulances.
“We have concerns about access from the rear. It’s built into a hill,” Marconi said.
“I asked any meeting they have with the fire marshal include the chief, as well,” he said.
“A lot of those issues still need to be resolved before any of the permits will be issued.”
Selectman Sean Connelly recalled that the developers had made a presentation to the Board of Selectmen, seeking to use a disused section of the Turner Road. Among the issues is whether the abandoned section of the road is legally considered a public highway.
The developers’ attorney Brain Smith made a case that the disused section of road is still a public highway and that the builders, with frontage on the road, have a right to use it to travel to and from their property.
But if the old road is considered officially abandoned as a public highway, and is just empty town land, the right to use would have to be granted.
“They were going to get back to us,” Connelly said, “and we were going to vote.”
The project — which went through numerous re-designs to satisfy the Planning and Zoning Commission — never did come back before the selectmen.
Marconi said the town lan question would eventually be addressed, but he wanted to settle the permit issues first.
“Once all the professionals are satisfied the project can happen under code, then we will move forward with the question of the land,” Marconi said.
“I don’t want to do anything on town property until we know everything that’s being done is being done under code.”
An agreement to use of town-owned property involves a multi-step public process.
“If there’s going to be any agreement for use of town property, that has to be a vote of Board of Selectmen, as well as a public hearing, and a town meeting,” Marconi said.
He added that because it has to do with town land, there is a requirement for at least a 10-day separation between the public hearing and the town meeting.