Ridgefield committee tables affordable housing proposal at Prospect Ridge — for now

RIDGEFIELD — The town’s affordable housing committee was split on a motion to table any further action on its proposal to develop affordable housing on Prospect Ridge.

The roughly 15-acre parcel of town-owned land is located south of Halpin Lane and west of the Ridgefield Rail Trail, and sits adjacent to an existing affordable housing development.

The committee voted 5-4 to table action on the proposal until after it submits its affordable housing plan to the state on June 1. Under state requirements, the plan must be updated every five years.

Board member Lori Mazzola presented the motion at a meeting on Wednesday night. She said the development of the affordable housing plan would yield more information about the types of housing options Ridgefield really needs.

“We should use the information we gather for the plan to decide if we need affordable housing, how much affordable housing (units) we need and where we need to build it,” she said. “The information in the plan will help us go forward in the right direction.”

Sparks flew prior to the vote concerning the optics of the project. Some attendants said they felt the committee wasn’t being transparent about who would manage the would-be development, be it the Ridgefield Housing Authority or a private developer.

They also took issue with the committee spending money on studies to assess if the parcel is suitable for development despite not having purview over the land.

Earlier this year, the committee secured a $50,000 state grant to conduct a feasibility study to determine if the parcel is suitable for development. The Board of Selectmen approved the grant application in 2020.

“The allocation of the land is a town decision, not a committee decision, and that’ll only be done when we know (if it’s) possible to do something,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi told Hearst Connecticut Media. “And that’s what we want to know, if we could do something — that’s why the grant was applied for.”

The committee recently spent $3,000 of the grant to conduct a site suitability study, which determined that 5 acres of the parcel could be developed, Chairman Dave Goldenberg said.

Mazzola suggested the committee work with the Planning and Zoning Commission to see if the town could instead create affordable housing options from its existing housing stock.

“Creating more buildings equals dissent from the residents,” she said. “We should look at the (housing) inventory we have before we build something that people are gonna be angry about.”

Some P&Z members were present at Wednesday’s meeting to begin a dialogue of “collaborative engagement” between the boards, Chairman Robert Hendrick said.

Both boards agreed that the town should work towards a four-year moratorium from 8-30g. The statute states that if a town has fewer than 10 percent affordable housing options, a developer can override local zoning laws to build multi-family housing of any size, provided there are no health and safety issues.

Goldenberg said Ridgefield needs an additional 75 affordable units — comprising a third of senior housing, a third of 80-percent income housing and a third of 60-percent income housing — to achieve another moratorium.

The committee will present a proposal for its affordable housing trust fund at the Board of Selectman meeting on Dec. 8.