Affordable housing: 30 units planned on Danbury Road

A rendering of the 30-unit, 45-bedroom, age-restricted affordable housing project that is being planned on a little over three acres off Danbury Road.
A rendering of the 30-unit, 45-bedroom, age-restricted affordable housing project that is being planned on a little over three acres off Danbury Road.

A 30-unit, 45-bedroom, age-restricted affordable housing project is being planned on a little over three acres off Danbury Road, in a single three-story building with gables, dormers and porches facing across Route 35 toward the north driveway of the Fox Hill condominiums. The site — 233 Danbury Road — backs up toward Founders Hall.

The developers, CGP at Danbury Road LLC, are an extension of Charter Group Partners —  Marty Handshy, Jay Metcalfe and Dennis Stone — who built the 77 Sunset Lane project of 45 coach homes and nine condominiums on former Schlumberger land purchased from the town.

They plan to build under the state’s affordable housing law, 8-30g, which frees developers from density restrictions and most other zoning regulations on projects with at least 30% of the units  — nine of the 30 — qualifying as “affordable” by state standards.

“We kind of feel that having it age-restricted and affordable is a real positive,” said Marty Handshy of CGP. “Because generally speaking you’ll get retired folks there, and on the affordable side you’ll have folks that are retired but they might be on fixed incomes. That might allow people to stay in Ridgefield that want to stay here.

I’m hopeful it’s well-received. I think it’s good for the town,” Handshy said.

Moratorium ends

The town qualified in 2014 for a four-year moratorium on 8-30g applications, but the moratorium ends Oct. 7, 2018.

Planning and Zoning Chairwoman Rebecca Mucchetti said the project, which was submitted earlier this week in the town’s planning office, is scheduled for a public hearing Sept. 19.

The 8-30g rules require that the 30% of a project’s units that are affordable meet a state formula splitting them between two levels, based on 80% and 60% of the median income in the region.

Handshy said the state also requires that the affordable units be spread among the unit-styles offered.

“There’s 15 one-bedrooms and 15 two-bedrooms, and it’s a combination 8-30g and 55-plus age restricted,” he said.

“You’d have nine affordable units. They have to be evenly distributed throughout the project — we’ll have one-and-two-bedroom units.”

Aging in place

“When you do 55-plus housing the whole idea is, they call it ‘aging in place’ — the homes would have all the blocking so you could add the handicapped bars to the walls and shower, or you could configure the bathrooms and kitchens so they’re ADA-compliant.”

This involves factors such as door widths and countertop heights.

The age-restriction makes in unlikely any families would have school children to educate, and the high density project would pay a substantial tax bill.

“As a 55-plus project it has positive revenue for the town,” Handshy said.

It’s right next to Founders Hall. We’re hopeful to have a direct path to Founders Hall,” he said. The project would be in a single building something like those Handshy and his partners developed at 77 Sunset Lane.

“It’s similar to the ‘coach homes’ — garage under, with three stories above,” he said. “It would have the elevators, have the underground parking.”

The building footprint is 12,380 square feet — about 37,000 square feet for the three floors.

Two septic systems

The 30-unit project would have Aquarion water service, but isn’t in the town sewer district so it would be served by two septic systems.

The Department of Health has approved plans for two septic systems for the 30-unit, 45 bedroom building — with a requirement that plumbing be configured to send flows from 30 bedrooms to one septic system, and flows from the other 15 bedrooms to the other system.

A traffic study for the project by Frederick P. Clark Associates says traffic counts on Route 35 near the site show 1,301 vehicles during the peak morning commuter hour and 1,594 cars in the afternoon peak hour.

But the consultant projects little traffic to or from 30 units of 55-and-older at those times.

“A development of this type and size is estimated to generate six to eight vehicle trip ends during the weekday morning and weekday afternoon peak hours, respectively,” the consultant wrote.

“This level of additional traffic added to Danbury Road, which is a state route, will have minimal if any measurable impacts on traffic operations.”

Attitudes to affordable

Dating back to 1989, the state’s 8-30g law was designed to encourage more affordable housing by opening up suburbs where “exclusionary zoning” for single-family homes on large lots had kept less affluent people out.

Although the law wasn’t used that much at first, Ridgefield officials sought the moratorium after affordable housing applications took off. The town has approved 18 projects with 569 residential units — 30% of them affordable — under 8-30g, though not all have been built. Nine of 18 were approved between 2012 and 2014 when the moratorium started.

That history came up during the Planning and Zoning Commission’s July 31 discussion with the Glenn Chalder, the consultant leading a 10-year revision of the town plan.

“The fear of affordable housing seems to have left the town,” said commission member George Hanlon. “People have accepted it, and seem to appreciate it. Five or six years ago, everyone was pulling their hair out.”

Hanlon theorized that people found the affordable projects that were built less objectionable than they’d imagined: “Geez, that looks nice,” he said.

“When your friends and neighbors start to move into those places,” added commission member Bob Cascella, “it gets more acceptable.”