Affordable housing: 30-unit apartment building gets mixed response
A proposed apartment building on Danbury Road submitted under the state’s affordable housing law received mixed reviews from neighbors and other residents at the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on Sept. 19.
If approved, the single 30-unit, three-story building will be built at 233 Danbury Road, a three-acre plot of land near Founders Hall. The town currently has a moratorium on the state affordable housing law, but it expires in October.
Neighbors opposed to the 45-room development argued that it would spoil a pocket of town given over to a quiet hiking path and woods, and that the development could negatively impact nearby wetlands.
“I don’t want to live next door to an apartment building,” said Anne Kwalwasser, of Conley Court.
“The quality of life has suffered in the past 13 years,” said Tom Caruso, also a resident of Conley Court. Joanne Zettle, a Tanton Hill resident, said she was concerned that the development would affect property values, and could change the quiet woods and trails that she enjoys walking.
But other community members — many of whom currently live at developer Marty Handshy’s other project, the condominium complex at 77 Sunset Lane — said the age-restricted housing would fill a need for senior citizens who couldn’t otherwise afford to retire in Ridgefield.
She said she also has concerns about light and noise during the building’s construction, as well as the number of trees the builders plan to cut down to grade the surrounding land.
The $185,000 in additional tax revenue that Handshy estimates would only account for two people’s salaries, Zettle said.
The six residents who spoke against the project all live on either Tanton Hill Road or Conley Court, neighborhoods that are near the proposed site. Of the residents in favor of the development, most said they are currently residents of 77 Sunset Lane.
But Kelby Edwards, who lives south of the proposed site on Danbury Road, stood out as a supporter. “Being the parent of a special needs adult, I’m excited for this project,” he told the commission. He said there are currently few housing options available for people with significant special needs and mobility issues in town, something he hopes the commission will consider.
Ed Smith, who retired with his wife after living in town since 1993, said he was “one of the lucky ones” who retired to Handshy’s other development, which he said was “fabulous.”
“Here I found a place where I can live in the manner and style in which I want to live,” he said.
The project was submitted under the state’s 8-30g affordable-housing law.
Under that law, developers are given leeway to build housing that does not have to comply with locally-imposed zoning rules. In exchange, the developer agrees to set aside a certain number of units as price-restricted housing.
The town is currently under a four-year moratorium on 8-30g developments, which is due to expire on Oct. 7.
Members of the Planning and Zoning Commission have generally eyed the law wearily, voicing concern that the lack of zoning restrictions could fundamentally alter the town’s charm and character.
Under the plan, the 30 units would be evenly split between one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments.
Five of the apartments would be set aside as affordable housing for tenants with an income of about 60% of the state median income, and four would be set aside for someone making 80% of median income, according to Handshy.
Attorney Bob Jewell, who represents Handshy, said the final price of the affordable units would still need to be determined.
All of the apartments plan to be sold, rather than rented, and housing would be restricted to ages 55 and older.
Handshy said he estimates the average age of the buildings residents would be around 70-years-old.
Glenn Chalder of Planimetrics, a consultant hired by the town, suggested that the commission should consider pushing for a building administrator to ensure the affordable housing units comply with the law.
He also suggested the town insist on a right-of-first refusal for the affordable units, to allow the town to ensure the apartments remain affordable housing after the 40-year limit imposed by the state law.
According to Mike Galante, the traffic expert hired by Handshy from Frederick P. Clarke planning consultants, most of the additional traffic from the development would be from cars backed up in the driveway waiting to turn onto Danbury Road.
Several neighbors opposed to the application raised concern it would increase traffic on that section of Danbury Road.
Kermit Hua of KWH Enterprise, the town’s expert for traffic peer-review, said he wanted to know if the plan allows the largest town fire trucks and full-size delivery trucks to drive around the building for access.
Chairwoman Rebecca Mucchetti ended the hearing for the evening after the meeting ran late. It will continue on Oct. 9.