Ridgefield Selectmen delay vote on affordable housing plan

Ridgefield Town Hall.

Ridgefield Town Hall.

Macklin Reid / news@theridgefieldpress.com

RIDGEFIELD -- While the town's Selectmen disagreed on how much public input has gone into the town's affordable housing plan, by the end of Wednesday's Board meeting, they all agreed the public needs to get the opportunity to review the plan.

Therefore, while the Selectmen intended to vote on the plan that evening, they moved the voting date to their next Board meeting, on Oct. 19.

The plan, which was due to the state Office of Policy and Management June 1, is part of meeting the requirements of state statutes that encourage towns with less than 10 percent of its housing stock considered “affordable” to develop more. Affordable housing is defined as costing less than 30 percent of the income of a household earning 80 percent or less of the area’s median income.

Ridgefield’s plan was crafted by its Affordable Housing Committee and approved by the town’s Planning & Zoning Commission on July 26 by a vote of 7 to 1.

The most recent draft of the plan, dated Sept. 20, can be viewed on the town's website, at Ridgefieldct.org by searching Affordable Housing Plan under Affordable Housing Committee. Printed copies of the document are available at the town's library Town Clerk's office at Town Hall. The public has an opportunity to submit comments on the plan, which will be reviewed by the Selectmen.

At the Selectmen meeting, First Selectman Rudy Marconi said the Selectmen "really listened to everything the public said on this topic. We may not have made every single change because we're trying to balance everything." 

However, Selectmen Bob Hebert said residents have not made as much change to the plan as they desire.

"Residents don't want to just have an opportunity to be heard. They want an opportunity to affect change to this document. ... It's important that we get this right. ... In my opinion, what we ended up doing was listening to these people and listening to their concerns. We tweaked and we took things out
but what I'm hearing or what I saw from all the emails ... is there's a lack of trust and confidence in this document," Hebert said. "There's a lot of concern about the length of the contents of the document — the changes that people were wanting to have made, were not made."

Additionally, while some Selectmen said many residents expressed they don't want any affordable housing plan, Hebert disagreed.

"Quite frankly, I think ... it's offensive to say that people don't want affordable housing in the town. Everybody wants affordable housing. It's all by definition of what affordable housing is," he said. 

Among the changes that Selectmen are considering to the plan is the addition of a public survey that was previously sent to residents on their feeling about affordable housing. The survey would add 24 pages to the document. 

According to the state’s Municipal Housing Inventory, as of  Sept. 23, about about 55 towns and cities — of a total of 169 — did not yet submit plans.A complete list of municipalities, along with the dates their plans were submitted, can be found on the state’s Office of Policy and Management website by clicking “Inventory of Municipal Affordable Housing Plans.” Additionally, the state website contains a link to the municipal websites where each plan can be found.