Two of Westport’s longest-running — and thorniest — housing issues may soon come to conclusions.
RTM member and Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce executive director Matthew Mandell has been following the sagas of Lincoln/Cross Streets and Hiawatha Lane Extension for years. He writes:
Two major projects, both 8-30g*, have come to a negotiated resolution: Lincoln / Cross Street as well as Hiawatha.
Both will be presented to the public by the Planning & Zoning Commission this Wednesday (May 12, 7 p.m., Zoom). There will be an outline of what each will be, and the public will be allowed to comment. It is anticipated that P&Z will then vote on each.
How did we get here?
P&Z denied the Lincoln multi-story 80+ unit project, and was then sued by the developer. The judge ruled in favor of the developer. 8-30g cases are exceedingly hard to defend. Even though there were severe safety issues, the judge said the need for affordable housing essentially outweighed them.
The P&Z then worked with the neighbors and the developer to make the project more palatable. I was not in any of the meetings, so I too am waiting to see what has come out of it.
As for Hiawatha: P&Z, the Board of Selectmen, the Department of Housing and everyone else who ever said boo about this project was sued over this one. There were actually 7 lawsuits still pending after this 16-year battle.
With this negotiated settlement, all of them go away. Their ancillary issues, some of which could have been detrimental long-term to the entire town, will be gone as well.
While some of the suits might have been won, I am not sure all 7 would have. This was always an egregious project of 5 buildings with 187 units, where 10 naturally occurring affordable homes exist in the middle of an affordable neighborhood.
This one is going to hurt. I can’t say more on the issue, but we will all see it when it comes public. I am very sad about this outcome, and really feel for the neighborhood. We all fought for 16 years against a developer and lawyer who only saw opportunity and not people.
In the end, it is the town that gets sued. It’s the town that negotiates for itself, and they make the call in these cases. A silver lining may be, with both of these projects the town would probably get another 4 year moratorium from 8-30g projects.
The Planning & Zoning Commission welcomes public comment at Wednesday’s 7 p.m. meeting. Click here for the Zoom link. The meeting ID is 816 5841 6015. The passcode is 221876.
*8-30 g is a Connecticut statute. It says that that unless 10 percent of a town’s housing stock is “affordable” — according to state definition — a developer planning to include affordable units can challenge a town’s denial of a proposal.