Despite Denials, Hiawatha Lane Housing Proposal Still Lives

Folklore says that cats have 9 lives.

The proposed Hiawatha Lane housing development has been rejected 8 times by town officials.

Its developer is betting the 9th time’s the charm.

In June, Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission struck down Summit Saugatuck’s plan for 187 units on the narrow road nestled between Saugatuck Avenue and I-95 exit 17. Board members cited concerns about access by firefighters and first responders, as well as traffic and pedestrian concerns.

Applications for sewer connections were denied earlier, by the P&Z and/or Board of Selectmen, in July and September 2007; January 2015; July 2016, and February 2017.

A text amendment and zone change were voted down in November 2016. The text amendment, map amendment and zoning amendment request defeated this past June was the 8th request.

Every denial was unanimous.

Summit Saugatuck’s plan for Hiawatha Lane.

But Summit Saugatuck principal Felix Charney will be back again. Because the proposal is submitted as an 8-30g application — meaning it falls under the state’s “affordable housing” regulation — it’s been re-submitted. A public hearing is set for September 12.

The plan would include 130 market-rate units, and 57 deemed “affordable.” Hiawatha Lane already includes many homes that are among the most affordable in Westport.

The 8-30g statute mandates that 10% of a town’s housing stock be “affordable,” under a state formula. Westport is currently at 4%.

However, only units constructed after 1990, and those that are deed-restricted for 40 years, are considered. Most Westport units serving lower-income groups do not fall into either category.

In March, Westport received a “Certificate of Affordable Housing Completion” from the state Department of Housing. The result was a 4-year moratorium on 8-30g.

The moratorium was granted “based upon the significant progress Westport has made in supplying affordable housing,” 1st Selectman Jim Marpe. Yet the moratorium does not preclude more submissions, like the one Summit Saugatuck is proposing.

Summit Saugatuck and Garden Homes — another developer whose proposal to build on untenable land was denied by the town — tried to get the state to vacate the moratorium. Their petition was denied on Monday by Connecticut’s Department of Housing.

1177 Post Road East helped Westport earn a 4-year moratorium on 8-30g proposals.

The town has received “moratorium points” for these units:

  • Rotary Centennial House, 10 West End Avenue (6 out of 6 total units)
  • Bradley Commons, Bradley Lane (4 of 20)
  • Saugatuck Center, Riverside Avenue (5 of 27)
  • Bedford Square, Church Lane (5 of 26)
  • 20 Cross Street (3 of 10; a portion of all others also earn points)
  • Coastal Point, 1135 Post Road East (2 of 12)
  • 1177 Greens Farms, 1177 Post Road East (29 of 94; a portion of all others also earn points )
  • Sasco Creek, 1655 Post Road East (31 of 54)
  • Hidden Brook, 1655 Post Road East (4 of 39)
  • Hales Court (38 of 78).

As noted earlier, that does not count any affordable housing built before 1990.

(Hat tip: Carolanne Curry)

17 responses to “Despite Denials, Hiawatha Lane Housing Proposal Still Lives

  1. Matthew Mandell

    The point that gets missed here is that the law firm representing the developer, Shipman & Goodwin ACTUALLY tried to get our well earned and and state granted moratorium overturned. This was an aggressive move to undermine the Town.

    Here is the rub, This same law firm represents the Board of Education. So the same firm is both our advocate and our adversary. This is a conflict of interest for our Town.

    Over the last 7 years this firm has been paid over $1 Million in tax payer money, while at the same time sued us 3 times at a cost to us of over $200,000. A new suit is coming with the potential Hiawatha denial which will cost us more. Mind you both attorneys in this situation are partners and share in each other’s profits.

    Recently in an attempt to bolster their position and again attack the town, the S&G attorney for the developer called us racists in the press. In what world would anyone continue to employ any consultant / firm where one of their own is actively and aggressively trying to do the town harm?

    The time has come to end this unseemly situation. Newtown who was in the same position of being played on both sides by S&G ended it in February. We can do the same, but it will take the BOE to help see this through.

    Either a law firm is for us or they are against us, but they can no longer do both.

  2. Raymond F Skidgell

    Drain the swamp

  3. Raymond F Skidgell

    Looks like someone is getting paid off.

  4. Thank you Matthew Mandell! My Colleague on the RTM is spot on. It’s time for “THE HARTFORD INSIDER” Law Firm of Shipman and Goodwin to be put in their place.

    Many tax payers are not aware of the fact S&G partner Tom Mooney ( who represents our Board of Education) and Tim Hollister who has been very instrumental in writing 8-30g law and DEFENDING it by SUING communities like Westport, are partners in this law firm.


    We the taxpayers are literally being “DOUBLE CHARGED” and “OVER DEVELOPED” at the same time by two factions of ONE POWERHOUSE HARTFORD LAW FIRM.

    This law firm once managed by Senator Chris Murphy’s father, cares little about local zoning, traffic, and demographics when it comes to their bullying tactics with 8-30g.

    Our community has been DENIED AFFORDABLE HOUSING CREDITS for affordable housing already built ( Oakwood, Hales CT) BEFORE 8-30g.

    Instead of this GREEDY LAW FIRM trying to noose hold communities like Westport, taking EVERY DOLLAR they CAN on BOTH the TOWN SIDE and BOARD OF ED SIDE, why not work with us to develop within the framework of our local zoning laws?

    DENSITY DOES MATTER… With Route 1, 136, 58, 2 entrances and exits on both 95 and Merritt, we a traffic hub for all!!

    It’s been a great run for S&G. The cow is out of milk. It’s time for S&G to choose ethics over conflict of interest or our BOE to give Mr. Mooney and his partners and ultimatum.

    Please contact your RTM members and the BOE and voice your opinion.

  5. If what Matthew has written is accurate, I would argue that it is not simply a conflict of interest for the town, it could very well be deemed a conflict of interest for the law firm.

    Dan, perhaps you can seek a comment from S & G’s lawyers on this apparent conflict.

    In any case, it sounds like Newtown made the prudent decision–and Westport should seriously consider doing the same.

    • Matthew Mandell

      Fred –

      The law firm says they can do this. We have letters from them saying so. And they have continued on this path.

      This is not a new situation, I have called this out for 7 years, but the recent attack on the moratorium and the racist comment has me calling for action.

      I believe it is a conflict for them, regardless of their, the Bar or the State’s thinking. Partners share in the profit. If they had won the moratorium overturn then they could represent more developers. More housing means more students and more need for BOE representation.

      It is a mess, and we should no longer be a party to this. It is time to act, the BOE hires them, the BOE can fire them. Either that or S&G disengages from adversarial representation.

  6. If I understand 8-30g correctly, developers can take advantage of the statute for developments in which only 30% of the proposed new units are deemed affordable, until the town reaches a 10% of total units threshold (the moratorium notwithstanding). Does this mean that the total number of units that town would need to be above the 10% threshold increases every time a developer adds “non-affordable” (for lack of a better term) units to the town? My back of the envelope calculations are that even if 100% of the units in new developments are affordable, we’d need to add somewhere in the ballpark of 1000-1300 units to meet the 10% threshold (i.e., 5 to 6 developments on par with the size of the proposed Hiawatha Lane project, consisting entirely affordable units). Can we as a town at least insist that developments exceed the 30% affordable criteria set by 8-30g so we’re not chasing a moving target until we reach the 10%?

    • Matthew Mandell


      That is correct, even 100% increases the need as that increases the numerator.

      I did a calculation, with the help of Staples math teachers. It would take 3600 units of housing using the 8-30g formula of 70/30 market/affordable to achieve 10% in the town. Or we could just build 750 units of affordable units of housing. Needless to say neither are reasonable or possible with the land we have in town without building large apartment buildings.

    • Michael Calise

      It’s true this immoral law has set a bar that for all intensive purposes is unachievable for most communities

  7. Joshua Stein

    I have asked this question many times before… if you ignore the random 1990 cut-off, what % of the town’s housing stock is affordable? I dont think I have ever been able to get an answer…

  8. Karen Kramer

    I agree completely. We must replace Shipman and Goodwin. On one hand we have been paying this firm hundreds of thousands over the years. We might think that they would feel some loyalty to us, their clients .
    But no, they fight us on 830 Gs , have horrible things
    Printed about our community and have cost us another fortune to defend our community against this same firm.
    Sure. One partner represents us and a different one sues us. But let’s be realistic, the money earned from both partners is all put in the same company profits.
    Does anyone truly believe that is good for Westport.
    We must urge the board of education to fire this firm and retain new council now!
    We must find a better firm that is completely loyal to Westport.
    Goodwin and Proctor is not the only game in town.
    The time for a change is now
    We do not vipers in our nest.
    Karen Kramer
    RTM District 5

  9. I agree with Matt. Shipman & Goodwin should be reviewed for conflict of interest.
    Chris Tait
    RTM District 1

  10. Claudia Shaum

    Everyone – what can we do? I agree with everything said here – the law firm conflict of interest is blatant and I would contribute money to a fund to sue them (assuming that’s a proper step). Our roads are overrun with cars, our schools are bursting at the seams and the land, literally the land itself, cannot support all the new humans that would arrive if all these units are built. Does anyone know whether people are buying these condos? Are any of them fully sold? What can we do? I’m up for meeting with people and planning action. Greens Farms United has had some success…..but it was close.

  11. We questioned the Shipman and Goodwin involvement back in 2006 and 2007 when they represented the Redcoat Development 8-30G. We were told by certain individuals that it was not a conflict since the group of lawyers that participate in representing the BOE are a separate group of lawyers who work independently from the 8-30G group. That answer smelled like a whole lot of bull crap to me.

    • PS: I hope the BOE is bold enough to make the right decision and send Shipman and Goodwin packing.

  12. Saranda Berisa

    Why is the first selectman not stepping in and firing them? This is an incredibly slippery slope,
    and how incredibly unethical and undermining. So sad.