Ridgefield selectmen delay vote on affordable housing plan: ‘Can is being kicked down the road’

First Selectman Rudy Marconi

First Selectman Rudy Marconi

Macklin Reid / Hearst Connecticut Media

RIDGEFIELD — The Board of Selectmen has delayed its vote on the town’s affordable housing plan until August at the earliest.

The board was expected to vote Wednesday night on the plan, which sets a goal of adding 125 affordable units over five years, but postponed to its next meeting on Aug. 17 — or possibly well into September.

The delay is related to the town’s Planning & Zoning Commission, which did not vote on the plan at its meeting on Tuesday. As a result, several selectmen said they didn’t feel comfortable voting on the plan without P&Z approval.

On Thursday, Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi said only minor modifications still need to be made to the plan.

They’re “cosmetic in nature,” he said.

One of the changes involves adding a letter from Marconi and Rob Hendrick, who is the chairman of Planning & Zoning Commission.

“Those letters will be in there and we will have a final to approve — if not on the 17th then on Sept. 7,” Marconi told Hearst Connecticut Media.

He added, in speaking on behalf of himself, he wants to be sure that the Planning & Zoning Commission is 100 percent satisfied with the plan, prior to voting on it.

In the interim, he plans to notify the state’s Office of Policy and Management that the town needs until Sept. 21 to deliver the plan, which was required to be completed June 1.

“This means that we have the meeting on Aug. 17 and Sept. 7 and Sept. 21 to get this done,” Marconi said. "Let's wait and hear from Planning and Zoning. Let's get everything done, cleaned up, with the final final.”

Affordable Housing Commission Chairman David Goldenberg, who watched the meeting remotely, told Hearst Connecticut Media he’s disappointed “that the can is being kicked down the road” but said he’s confident the plan will pass after Planning & Zoning votes.

He added the town is looking forward to beginning the implementation of the plan in the fall.

At the most recent affordable housing meeting in town, other town officials also expressed frustration and some, even anger, in regard to having to meet the plan’s requirements.

On Thursday, Marconi said it's “unrealistic” for the town to build as many affordable units as the state would like.

“You go through life, you want to establish your goals that are high and that you can reach for — but don't make them so high that in a lifetime you may never achieve them, and that's what 8-30g is,” he said.

Section 8-30g of the Connecticut General Statutes is meant to encourage towns with less than 10 percent of their housing stock considered “affordable” to develop more.

Marconi added the reason 8-30g “isn't working in Ridgefield is because Ridgefield is not a city.”

“The cities are where the jobs are, are where you have public transportation. As a result, that's where the demand is. It is not out in Ridgefield, or in Canaan, Connecticut,” he said.

He said the town needs projects like transit-oriented development, “where you can build affordability into the project. You have transportation, both rail and bus service, and people can commute into Stamford, all the way to New York for a job, but you need to give them the opportunity to be able to get there,” he said.

He added while the town will build affordable housing units, “it’s just that we're never going to meet that 10 percent threshold.”

Affordable housing is defined as housing that costs less than 30 percent of the income of a household earning 80 percent or less of the area’s median income.

Ridgefield’s affordable housing plan has undergone some revisions since its original draft was released in April and includes minor changes such as the deletion of specific references to individual properties and disclaimers stating it’s not a binding agreement and that 2020 data sources were constrained due to the pandemic. This was done in response to feedback from residents and town officials.

The plan recommends that Ridgefield should pursue transit-oriented development, revise its zoning regulations to encourage multi-family housing and promote the “adaptive reuse” of existing buildings into affordable housing, among other suggestions.

Ridgefield is one of about half of Connecticut municipalities that didn’t submitted affordable housing plans to the state by the June 1 deadline.

The plans had to specify how they “intend to increase the number of affordable housing developments,” according to the Western Connecticut Council of Governments’ affordable housing plan website.

The state does not penalize municipalities that did not submit plans by the deadline. The state’s Office of Policy and Management will review the plans, which will be done every five years.

Ridgefield’s new 44-page plan was unanimously approved June 22 by the Affordable Housing Committee for submission to the Board of Selectmen and Planning & Zoning Commission.