30-unit senior condo plan draws heated opposition

Fired-up speakers savaged plans for a 30-unit 55-and-older condominium building — and the state affordable housing law that would allow it to be built without meeting zoning rules — at the second public hearing session on plans for 233 Danbury Road.

“How this will destroy area homes doesn’t seem to matter!” said Robin Caruso of Conley Court.

“...This is about a developer taking advantage of the law.”

About 40 people packed the Planning and Zoning Commission’s hearing Tuesday night, Oct. 9. Of 13 who spoke, 10 were opposed.

The commission closed the hearing, but took no vote — deciding to start deliberations Oct. 23.

“This is a surreal nightmare and an insult to our family,” said Sonia DelMonico.

She lives on Danbury Road, and her parents moved into the house two doors down. Now the three-story “monstrosity” is proposed to replace the house between them.

She was among several speakers decrying the state’s 8-30g affordable housing law that allows developers to circumvent local zoning rules — and propose 30 units on three acres, where zoning calls for single family homes on two-acre lots.

“8-30g allows developers to build whatever density they want, wherever they want, as long as 30% are affordable,” she said. “Builders have the upper hand on all 8-30g applications….

“We should not allow 8-30g to take over residential Ridgefield!”

Under the state law, towns can turn down affordable projects only on “public health and safety” grounds.

“There is an obvious public safety concern,” DelMonico said. “WIll fire trucks and ambulances be unable to safely enter and leave? Will they back out onto Route 35?”

She invoked Route 35’s traffic.

“The traffic issue is not during the rush hour when cars are crawling along, it’s when they’re going 55,” she said.

“This will not be safe or convenient,” she said. ”...If it’s inconvenient when you’re driving, it’s not safe.”

Three speakers were supportive. John Noonan spoke glowingly of the developers, who also built the 77 Sunset Lane project where he lives.

Parks and Recreation Commission chairman Phil Kearns welcomed plans for walking paths that would connect with the Recreation Center property.

Another speaker said taxes form the senior housing would benefit the town.

Attorney Bob Jewell told opponents their problem wasn’t his clients’ project, but a state legislature dominated by urban politicians who opposed suburban efforts to modify 8-30g.

“The cities don’t care. We are out-voted,” Jewell said. “Your argument is with the state.”

“We all understand the frustration the neighbors feel,” said Planning and Zoning Commission chairwoman Rebecca Mucchetti.  “...You understand some of the constraints we face.”

The 8-30g project doesn’t ignore all regulations.

“It meets height. It meets the setbacks. It doesn’t meet density,” Mucchetti said. “We’re doing what we can with what the state has given us to work with.”