8-30g: To Be Continued

The Chinese call this the Year of the Red Fire Monkey.

In Westport, it’s the Year of 8-30g.

That Connecticut statute allows developers to override local zoning regulations if less than 10% of a town’s housing stock is “affordable” (according to state formulas).

Towns can apply for a 4-year moratorium from being subject to 8-30g if they can show “affordable housing equivalency points” equal to 2 percent of their housing stock. During the moratorium, towns can rezone, encourage mixed-income housing, or work with developers to build projects together.

Westport mandates that any multi-family housing proposal must be at least 20% affordable.

Of the proposed housing development at 1177 Post Road East, 30 of the 94 units would be "affordable."

Of the proposed housing development at 1177 Post Road East, 30 of the 94 units would be “affordable.”

But 8-30g overrides virtually all local regulations — height, density, location, anything really except public safety or environmental.

So any developer may offer a plan that includes 30% affordable housing.

He won’t say he’s selling 70% of his units at what are high-end market rates.

Right now, Westport is debating 2 proposals: Hiawatha Lane and 1177 Post Road East.

The 70 affordable units proposed for Hiawatha — off Saugatuck Avenue, near I-95 Exit 17 — while technically not part of an 8-30g proposal, would bring us over the points needed for the 4-year moratorium.

So would the 30 affordable units proposed as part of the 94-apartment building at 1177 Post Road East, opposite Crate & Barrel.

However, the moratorium would not take effect until either of those projects is actually built.

Until then, any developer can buy property in town, and file an 8-30g proposal.

Several housing developments around Westport — Hales Court, Sasco Creek, Canal Park, the former Saugatuck Elementary School on Bridge Street — prove that Westport cares about affordable housing. And we do it right.

Some of the housing at Hales Court.

Some of the housing at Hales Court.

The next couple of years, though, may see a bit of monkey business.

The developers’ — not the red fire monkey — kind.

21 responses to “8-30g: To Be Continued

  1. “But 8-30g overrides virtually all local regulations — height, density, location, anything really except public safety or environmental.”

    Has anyone challenged an 8-30g proposal on the basis of public safety yet? That seems like a pretty broad exception — traffic, school crowding , etc.

  2. I think the insane development across from the Willows was denied because of public safety. The fire department said it was impossible to get fir engines into the development

  3. Matthew Mandell

    Don’t forget the ridiculous 6 story building on Wilton. If they win in court it goes in as it was filed before any moratorium.

    But’s let’s talk about the moratorium. It is a false grail and only a time out, a cease fire. Sure, It is something to strive for, we should, but it is no panacea. The 10% need does not change. So in those 4 years, which is a blip in time for developers, they will be sharpening their knives and waiting.

    During the moratorium we are supposed to then be do doing what? Trying to change the law? Absolutely, change has occurred, but been slow, the power does not come from Fairfield County. So we must continue to press them. Building more affordable? Now I am a supporter of affordable, but not at the density needed to meet 8-30g.

    See this calculation I put together to show that achieving the 10% is impossible without changing our town forever. http://www.westportd1.com/8-30gcalc-test2.html

    In the meantime we encourage developers to use our zones, like Coastal did at Geigers and fight the predators. We do what Westport has always done, work to do the right thing while preserving what makes our town special.

  4. Here is a discussion of 8-30g by someone who help shape the statute.

    http://digitalcommons.law.wne.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1161&context=lawreview

    The statute’s intent is made clear in the article. Westport can run, but it can’t hide.

  5. Dick Lowenstein

    Although the Saugatuck Apartments may be affordable by Westport standards, they do not meet the 8-30g requirements to count toward a 10% goal.

  6. Well-intentioned though it may have been, 830g is becoming a cottage industry for developers in Fairfield County. It goes like this:

    – Find a wealthy Fairfield County town that lagging behind on affordable units (hint: pick any of them)
    – Buy a parcel of land in a quaint area
    – Hire an architect
    – Design a goddawful concrete habitat that makes your skin crawl just to look at it [hint: make sure it wont impact traffic or the environment (big no-no’s)
    – Announce your plans – loudly, and often
    – Have the press circulate renderings of your soon-to-be-built moscow-style cement wonderland
    – Watch the fur fly
    – Sit back while neighbors and architectural review & zoning boards go bananas
    – “Out of consideration” for local concerns, make the parcel of land available for sale
    – Sell the land BACK – to the town, to the previous owner, to newly formed groups of concerned neighbors, to another developer
    – Cash the check

    Congratulations! You just profited millions for a year’s work, and didnt have to build a thing.

    • Matthew Mandell

      Jeff speaks the truth. This has been done in Darien a number of times……

      • Or offer an alternative proposal to build some high-ticket McMansions on the same acreage.

      • How many times has it been done? I know of the Nearwater lane project, which apparently wasn’t a shakedown according to lots of articles on the neighbor who was leading it. He seemed sincere. BTW – have you seen Darien’s new downtown development proposal. It’s a pretty big change. – Chris Woods

  7. don l bergmann

    Matt Mandell has long worked for good results for Westport land use planning. However, I have disagreed with his view that the “moratorium” is not something to pursue aggressively. Westport needs 38 more 8-30g points to reach the moratorium. I have suggested to our Board of Selectmen and other elected officials that Westport undertake a plan to construct its own “affordable” units, with the ownership or management to be other than the Town. If needed, that effort could include real estate tax incentives and the use of certain Town lands where such a project or projects would seem to make sense. Tax incentives could also be made available for 8-30g accessory apartments. The original proposal for Baron’s South, now past history, 99 units, 59 affordable, was a good proposal that was opposed by the then Board of Finance. We need to oppose “bad” 8-30g projects, but also need to do more than simply oppose.
    Don Bergmann

  8. Cornelia Fortier

    Darien created its own Affordable Housing Plan “In order to both bring back control to the Town’s local zoning for all developments, this plan is designed to 1) provide affordable housing in Darien where it is best suited and to 2) establish paths toward complying with State law.” Very comprehensive and proactive. Does Westport?

  9. One way or another with 8-30G in place Westport is going to have to increase its affordable housing stock.

    The town shouldn’t wait for the worst to happen and have ugly monstrosities plunked down at random places around town with the alternative of being held for ransom by con artists using 8-30G as a club.

    It would seem the logical choices are to either get the law changed to get credit for all the affordable housing the town has regardless of dates or be proactive and start immediately planning how to get some more affordable housing in town to at least meet the criteria to get to the moratorium!!

    Is anyone in town hall listening??

    The town bought Longshore,, Baron’s North and South when it was seen as a necessity for the town to preserve open space. 8-30G can destroy the open space look of this town with a few apartment buildings here and there. So something should and could be done ASAP if there is the will to do it!

    This is not just an necessity it looks more like an emergency!!

    • Steve: 8-30g was enacted in 1990 and it was reviewed and renewed in 2000 (see Mike Petrino’s post above for details). It has been discussed here and elsewhere for a decade. The P&Z specifically avoided the issue in the 2007 plan for conservation and development (opting instead for the “Joseloff Surprise” of trying to sell Baron’s South to a private developer). In 2006, the Town’s Long Term Planning Committee had an excellent handle on the issue but was ignored by the P&Z. Our neigboring towns have been dealing with this for years and it’s actually kind of amazing that it has taken this long for it to come to Westport (and it really hasn’t yet). It’s likely now too late for the town to do anything and I bet we’ll all be surprised where it will show up (use your imagination…). I’ll venture that it does seem like a reasonable law, and it would have been a net positive for the town if it was taken seriously when it came out when the town could have done the right thing. – Chris Woods

      • Aren’t you presuming a bona fide interest from developers in selling 30% of their developments at below-market costs?

        • The law is specifically designed (obviously) to use developer’s self interest to act in an aggressive way toward towns. It’s not a carrot, but a big club. – Chris Woods

  10. Linda Solway

    What constitutes affordable housing by Westport standards?

    • Michael Calise

      Actually Westport standards do not apply. The essence of 830G in Westport’s case is that much lower State of Connecticut income levels apply in determining affordable housing values. This applies for most of Fairfield County and makes free enterprise development options even less achievable

  11. David Loffredo

    The two proposed projects are not horrible and probably unstoppable anyways. Focus on trying to limit it to singles and seniors instead of families that will fill the already overrun schools.