Zoners approve affordable housing plan on Old Quarry Road

The carrot and stick seems to be working.

The Planning and Zoning Commission approved changes to Steve Zemo’s development at 35 Old Quarry Road, Tuesday, Feb. 6, which would bring the project under a new affordable housing regulation recently enacted by the town Planning and Zoning Commission.

The new rule is meant to encourage builders to shy away from the state’s 8-30g law — much bemoaned by critics on the commission, which allows developers to build without adhering to local zoning restrictions. Those restrictions include housing-unit density and building-height rules.

The commission’s “mixed-use overlay zone” allows developers to build multi-family housing over first-floor businesses. But the regulation applies only in the town’s three business zones.

To meet the regulation, the garage floor of 35 Old Quarry Road will be made up of four rentable garage units (which may be rented to only tenants) and six storage facilities.

“You folks have spent a long time coming up with this regulation, so we’re proud to be the first ones to avail ourselves of its public good,” said attorney Bob Jewell, who represented Zemo’s Old Quarry Road LLC during the hearing.

New plan

The commission voted 7-0 in favor of granting the application a special permit under the new regulation. Commissioners Mark Zeck and Tim Dunphy were absent from the night’s meeting.

The revised plans add eight additional apartment units to the third floor of the building, for a building total of 16 two-bed, two-bath units. Five of the apartments will be deed-restricted as affordable housing.

Part of the agreement also stipulates that the developer submit to an annual certification, said Assistant Planner Adam Schnell, who wrote the regulation.

Jewell said the storage facilities would be rented out to people looking to store motor vehicles.

Schnell said the site is located less than a half-mile from the town’s downtown village district, which helps the commission in its stated goal of increasing the walkability of the “ailing” downtown area.

“I think it’s what Ridgefield needs,” said commissioner Charles Robbins, “more affordable housing, and more housing within walking distance of the downtown.”

He asked if rented garage units would also have to be included in the leases for apartments set aside as affordable housing units. Jewell pointed out that the garage spaces would be rented separately from apartments. If tenants did not wish to rent out a garage space, then the four units would sit empty, Jewell said.

Under state law, units set aside for lower-income housing must have the same amenities offered with market-rate apartments.

Mike Taylor, Zemo’s partner, said he was excited to bring the project before the commission. “It’s the private sector bringing affordable housing to you without grants,” he said. “It’s very socially responsible, and we’re excited to bring it to you.”