Ridgefield seeks input on its affordable housing plan

RIDGEFIELD — The town’s affordable housing committee is developing an affordable housing plan to submit to the state by June 2022, and will seek the public’s help in crafting the first draft.

Residents will have a chance to make their voices heard during an in-person forum from 7 to 9 p.m Monday, Nov. 8 at the Ridgefield Recreation Center. The entire community is invited to attend.

The session is part of a months-long discovery and planning process that will shape the town’s new affordable housing plan, which, under state requirements, must be updated every five years. Committee Chairman Dave Goldenberg said the last full plan was compiled in 1999.

“Sunrise Cottage, the Meadows and regulations regarding accessory dwelling units in Ridgefield all came out of that plan,” he said. “We’re working on a number of current projects … that we expect will conform with the plan we’re working on now.”

The plan will likely include: the establishment of an affordable housing trust fund; additional development on Prospect Ridge; transit-oriented development in Branchville; and housing for adults with disabilities.

The Prospect Ridge project could qualify Ridgefield for another four-year moratorium from 8-30g, Goldenberg said. 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.

By maintaining local control, the town can ensure the development is consistent with the neighborhood, Goldenberg added.

The committee is nearing the end of its site suitability study at Prospect Ridge, which will determine which portion of the property could be developed.

“If that appears positive, then we’ll move forward with the other aspects of the feasibility plan,” Goldenberg said. This includes the impact of potential development on the environment, sewer capacity, schools, traffic and public services.

The Nov. 8 forum is intended to “amp up the level of public conversation” around affordable housing and “bury misconceptions” that often appear online, Goldenberg said.

“Some questions arise from misinformation that (is) shared publicly, others are just natural concerns,” he added. “This is the first chance for Ridgefielders to make their voices heard in the planning process. … We hope that everyone will participate so that we can educate ourselves as a community.”

Ridgefield has approximately 3 percent of deed-restricted affordable housing, but that number is unlikely to skyrocket, according to First Selectman Rudy Marconi.

“Over the next couple of years we’re looking at about 150 units being built that may contain an affordable component,” he said. “Is that gonna change Ridgefield? Absolutely not.”

Marconi noted, however, that he is concerned about affordability. He anticipates the demand for public transportation, housing, education and jobs will “get greater and greater” as the population continues to increase, and said municipalities should be prepared.

“TOD is hugely important,” he said of transit oriented development. “If we’re gonna do more affordability in town we need to create some jobs, as well. … It’s a multifaceted issue.”