Zemo’s additional units approved on Danbury Road
Ridgefield’s rental market will be getting 16 additional units — five of them affordable under the state’s 8-30g statute — at 100 Danbury Road.
That was the result of a continued public hearing in front of the Inland Wetlands Board and Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday, July 23.
“These are rentals,” said developer Steve Zemo, the property’s owner. “There are a lot of upper-end units in town but this addition to our affordable rental stock is needed. ... The goal is to provide housing for all that need it.”
Attorney Bob Jewell presented the application, arguing that the building would add “minimal traffic flow” to an area that has 1,500 cars pass by it in the morning commuter hours.
He also said the affordable units would help Ridgefield inch toward “the magical threshold” of having 10 percent of its housing inventory be restricted as affordable.
The states goal is for every municipality to have a minimum of 10 percent of their housing stock as deeded affordable. Those that have reached the goal are no longer subject to 8-30g applications that circumvent zoning restrictions. At last calculation, Ridgefield is at about 2.7%.
“We’re never going to hit that [10 percent] number but this helps us get closer to the possibility of another moratorium, and that’s the only way to get by 8-30g,” Jewell said.
Ridgefield’s four-year moratorium on applications under the state’s 8-30g affordable housing statute ended on Oct. 7, 2018.
The 8-30g law requires that half the 30 percent of units that are set aside for 40 years be affordable — meaning housing cost consumes only one-third of family income — by people earning 60 percent of state median income, with the other half affordable by people at 80 percent of state median income.
“I would like to add that this application puts affordable housing where affordable housing already is,” Jewell said. “... This is the right place for affordable housing.”
The public hearing lasted 30 minutes before closing.
Some of the topics included a wetland area that the application aims to improve.
“Right now it’s a sad little wetland — isolated,” said Jewell. “There’s no connection to any other waterway. What my client wants to do is restore it and make it more functioning. We’ll connect it to the larger wetlands in the area and we think that’ll improve it.”
Parking was also discussed briefly.
Zemo’s property at 100 Danbury Road is a 1.47-acre site, and the application also involves an adjoining 0.59-acre parcel off Ligi’s Way that would be used mostly for parking. Both parcels are in a B-3 business zone, and the application called for the possibility of building “reserved parking” on-site in the future.
Chairwoman Rebecca Mucchetti suggested that the commission approve the application with a condition: the reserved parking plans come back in for peer review if additional parking is ever needed.
“The tipping point for reserved parking shouldn’t be the commission’s burden, it should be activated by the owner,” Mucchetti said.
“I didn’t want to leave that open-ended,” she added. “At the June 25 hearing, the question came up of what will be the trigger point was asked? And that shouldn’t be incumbent of the commission. The property owner is familiar with the use and demand. We ask that he come back in if there’s still a need to build reserve parking ... it could be two years or five years; if he ever needs it.”
“That’s a practical approach,” Zemo agreed. “There’s no sense in having parking we don’t need.”
Commissioner Charles Robbins motioned to approve the project’s wetlands application, and Commissioner John Katz seconded that motion.
“It seems obvious to me, it doesn’t encroach on any wetlands,” Robbins said.
“It’s a benign application, and it deserves approval,” Katz added.
Katz also motioned to approve the affordable housing application.
“I don’t think a discussion is necessary,” he said, “it meets the affordable housing needs of this community.”