Tag Archives: Connecticut 8-30g affordable housing

Stephens, Steinberg Snipe Over Affordable Housing

Recently, the Connecticut General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to loosen the restrictions of 8-30g — the state’s affordable housing standards, which incentivize municipalities to make 10 percent of their housing stock be “affordable.”

(Westport has a long history with 8-30g. Some affordable housing units here were built before the 1990 date on which state standards are based. Developers have proposed large buildings on small lots, marking a few units as “affordable.” Some observers have called those proposals “blackmail.” Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission has denied several such proposals already. They approved one, on Post Road East.)

A proposed 4-story rental property at 1177 Post Road East.

The vote — 30-6 in the Senate, 116-33 in the House — makes it easier for towns and cities to reach “moratoriums,” and in some cases increases those moratoriums beyond the previous 4 years. (For an in-depth analysis of the measure from CTMirror, via WestportNow, click here.)

Governor Dannel Malloy vetoed the bill. The Senate overrode the veto by the closest 2/3 margin possible — 24-12. The House overrode it 101-47.

Local reaction was swift.

Westport Representative Jonathan Steinberg said: “I’m going to tell people in my town, ‘Put up or shut up.’ Build the units. Get to the moratorium. Stay on that path.”

That infuriated P&Z member Chip Stephens.

He emailed an “open letter” to Steinberg:

We got your message.

How dare you grandstand and throw your fellow town officials and residents under the bus last night:

“Steinberg said he plans to take an unwavering message to his town’s leaders — act.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’m going to tell people in my town, ‘Put up or shut up. Build the units. Get to the moratorium. Stay on that path,’” Steinberg said. Only after they have been given that chance, he said, can leaders “talk about whether or not 8-30g is working.””

I suggest you consider that your town officials have worked long and hard on affordable housing, both 8-30g qualifying, and more importantly quality affordable housing as Hales Court, Sasco Creek, Canal Park and other IHZ and multifamily components.

Canal Park offers affordable housing for seniors, near downtown. Because it was built before 1990, it does not count for points under 8-30g standards.

In passing the newest 8-30g complex on Post Road East we will have our first moratorium application ready as soon as the developer completes the project and gets his CO.

Next time you crawl up on that stump and blow hot air directed at your town, think hard before letting your common sense filter down hurling inflammatory and demeaning comments at Westport. We hear and we will remember.

Steinberg fired back:

I have fought for 7 years to amend 8-30g to make it easier for Westport to achieve a moratorium, while you have done very little.

How dare you lecture me on this statute when all I stated that it’s now on towns to take advantage of this new opportunity to get to a moratorium and avoid developer predation.

You have real gall calling me out, given your abject failure as a Commissioner representing Westport’s interests.

I’m responsible for giving you a tool to protect our town. Shut up and get it done.

Like the 8-30 g/affordable housing debate, this political dialogue will continue.

State Representative Jonathan Steinberg (left) and Westport Planning & Zoning commissioner Chip Stephens.

Building Proposal Raises Affordable Housing, Traffic Questions

It’s a long-neglected property. A developer hopes to tear down the tired old building, clean up the land and build a new office/retail/food store complex, as well as residential retail units.

There are 16 or so affordable units there now. They’d be gone. They don’t count toward Westport’s state-mandated 8-30g affordable housing number, however, because they were built (long) before 1990.

The new plan includes 14 units. Only 3 would be “affordable” — but they would apply toward our total number.

Those are some of the issues surrounding a proposal heard by Westport’s Planning and Zoning Commission recently for 785 Post Road East. It sits unobtrusively between Westport Wash & Wax and New Country Toyota — and it has for many years.

785 Post Road East, between Westport Wash & Wax and New Country Toyota.

785 Post Road East, between Westport Wash & Wax and New Country Toyota.

In recent years, the rear of the property has been used as a dumping ground. The house fronting the Post Road is not in dire shape, but it’s sure not distinguished either.

The new plan includes a 2-story building for office space, plus retail and that convenience or food store. The rental units would be part of 3 separate 2 1/2-story buildings. Ten would be 2-bedrooms; 4 would have 1 bedroom. There would be parking for 49 cars.

A “Notice of Intention to Demolish” sign already hangs on the existing building. Another one promises “Leasing Available.”

If the P&Z decides in an upcoming meeting to approve the project — or if they okay another development down the road — one thing is certain: Traffic on the Post Road will get even worse.

Right now mornings on that stretch — including the merge from Long Lots Road — are brutal. When there’s an accident on I-95, nothing moves.

So the next time you’re stuck there, take a look to your right. If you never noticed 785 Post Road East before, you will now.

A side view of 785 Post Road East.

A side view of 785 Post Road East.

Town Fights 8-30g — And Wins

A real estate developer buys suburban land. He announces plans to build a massive number of housing units on it. Citing Connecticut’s 8-30g statute, 30% will be “affordable,” according to state guidelines.

Townspeople — worried about the impact of such a massive development — rise up to oppose it.

Sound familiar? It happens all over — including Westport.

Here’s the unfamiliar part: The townspeople won.

The town is not Westport. But it’s nearby.

Easton residents and officials just got big news. A 5-year battle against a 99-unit, 31-building townhouse complex, on 124.7 acres of watershed bordered by Sport Hill, Westport, Silver Hill and Cedar Hill Roads, has come to an end. An appellate court declined to hear the developer’s appeal of a January decision by Hartford’s housing court, which upheld Easton’s Planning and Zoning Commission and Conservation Commission’s 2011 denial of that plan (and a previous one for 105 units).

Part of the Easton property proposed for a 99-unit 8-30g housing development.

Part of the Easton property proposed for a 99-unit 8-30g housing development. (Photo/Google Earth)

How did they do it?

Ira Bloom explains. He was legal counsel for the town commissions. He’s also Westport’s town attorney, so he knows something about 8-30g.

Unlike most zoning applications, Bloom says, if a town commission turns down an 8-30g application, the burden is on them — not on the developer — to prove they made the right decision.

There are a couple of ways to do that, Bloom says. One is to show there is “substantial public interest” in the denial. “Mere traffic congestion” does not work, Bloom notes. Traffic safety, however, may. “Substantial public interest” must clearly outweigh the need for affordable housing in that town.

Another way is to show that no possible modification of the proposal would satisfy the requirements.

Ira Bloom

Ira Bloom

“That’s a heavy burden of proof,” Bloom says. In fact, last year 9 8-30g cases were decided by Connecticut courts. 7 were won by developers. Towns prevailed in only 2 — including Easton.

Bloom argued that because the 99 units would be built on public watershed — serving most of the Easton — the town had a substantial public interest in denying the application. He cited Department of Energy and Environmental Protection guidelines that no more than 1 unit be built on every 2 acres of watershed.

In Westport, officials used the “substantial public interest” argument in denying a proposal for a large 8-30g complex on Wilton Road, near Kings Highway North. The fire chief testified there were severe safety concerns, about the ability of his department to access the proposed complex.

Westport is now writing briefs for that case. They’re due August 12. The developer — Garden Homes — then submits their own briefs.

Easton has very little affordable housing. Westport has more.

But when it comes to 8-30g, no town is out of the woods.

And, Bloom notes, the Easton developer still owns that property. A new proposal may be in the works.

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.

94 Housing Units Proposed For Post Road East

Westport’s spotlight on affordable housing now shifts to the Post Road.

Real estate developers Phil Craft and Stephen Lawrence are part of a team hoping to redevelop the office building at 1177 Post Road East — across from Crate & Barrel, near Turkey Hill Road — to provide 94 residential units.

Thirty of those will be deemed “affordable housing,” under the state 8-30g statute.

1177 Post Road East today...

1177 Post Road East today…

The “adaptive reuse and redevelopment project” will renovate the current 2-story, 42,000-square foot office building. A 4-story addition will be built over the existing parking lot, on the 1.96-acre parcel.

The building is being designed as a green project, with LEED certification as a goal. Plans include a green roof system, porous pavement on outdoor parking areas, improved storm water drainage and treatment systems, enhanced landscaping and at least 2 electric vehicle charging stations.

...and a rendering of the proposed 94-unit housing complex.

…and a rendering of the proposed 94-unit housing complex.

Craft said that Westport needs “more affordable housing options” for teachers, firemen, policemen and other town staff and employees,” as well as more transitional housing options for “younger workers, recent graduates, relocated workers, retirees and seniors.”

Lawrence believes this is “the right project in the right place at the right time.” He says 88 units will be “almost entirely” studios and 1-bedroom;; only 6 will be 2-bedroom.

The site is zoned for commercial development, and is served by sewer and utilities. Fire and emergency vehicles will have driveway access on all 4 building sides.

Arthur Hersh, another developer associated with 1177 PRE Associates — the joint venture planning the project — cites “easy walking access to local shopping centers, stores and parks.” He also notes the location on bus routes, including Coastal Link and the commuter shuttle to Green’s Farms station.

1177 PRE Associates has submitted applications to the Conservation and Planning & Zoning Commissions for review.