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Dozens of Neighbors Fight Homeland Street Proposal

The standing-room only crowd explained to Fairifeld's Plan and Zoning Commission that the affordable housing proposal would cause traffic, flooding, and other safety issues.

Neighbors protesting the proposed three-unit development on Homeland Street laid the groundwork Tuesday for public health and safety concerns that could occur should the plan be approved.

The plan to create three units (one duplex and one single family home) at 206/214 Homeland Street has been filed under the state's affordable housing statute 8-30g -- developer James Sakonchick plans to designate one unit "affordable." The other two units would be sold at market price to subsidize the costs of maintaining low-income housing, according to Sakonkich's Aug. 28 presentation. Sakonchick was denied twice before to develop three units on this property.

To deny the application, the Plan and Zoning Commission must prove the plan poses health and safety risks that outweigh the town's need for affordable housing.

Under the state's statute, each municipality in Connecticut should aim to designate 10 percent of dwellings as affordable. Fairfield currently hovers around 2 percent.

The public hearing portion of the process concluded Tuesday at McKinley Elementary School. The standing-room only crowd of residents argued that the due to potential traffic increase, flooding and drainage problems, and possible hindrance to emergency responders.

Don Connetta of Homeland Street showed commissioners through a series of staged photos what the street would look like if the three units and the planned two driveways (one shared) were approved.

He estimated that the structures would equate to six vehicles, at least a few of them would be parked in the street. According to fellow resident Andrew Sevin, also of Homeland Street, about 25 - 30 children under age 10 live and play in the neighborhood. The proposed development sits at the intersection of Homeland Street and Brookridge Avenue.

"There is potential for some terrible accidents," Connetta said.

Marcy Spolyar, who lives on Brookridge Avenue, had similar remarks.

"People don't stop [at the stop signs], they don't obey the speed limits," Spolyar said. "You're just asking for a kid to get swiped."

Residents also contested the legitimacy of Sakonchick's traffic survey, which he conducted himself. Some, like Merritt Street resident and real estate attorney Lukas Thomas, felt the report was grounds for the commission to rule the application incomplete and deny it.

Several residents explained to the commission the drainage issues that could occur if two structures are built on the lot, limiting the amount of land that runoff from rain and snow melt could seep into. Properties adjacent to the 206 and 214 Homeland Street rely on sump pumps to prevent basement flooding.

RTM member Marc Patten, D-7, spoke on behalf of Homeland Street resident Deborah Blanchard, who was unable to attend the hearing but sent in a letter. She said drainage issues caused a sinkhole to form near her garage and her family's aboveground pool began to sink into the ground, forcing them to remove it.

One neighbor also pointed out that the density of structures on Homeland Street, should the units be approved, would create a "terrible atmosphere in case there's a fire."

Former Bridgeport firefighter and fire marshal Nick Novia of Farmington Avenue explained the porch attached to one of the proposed buildings would not be a safe place to put a ladder if needed to rescue someone from the second floor.

He also said the crowding due to traffic would make it difficult for first responders' vehicles to get in and out of the area.

In addition to outlining the health and safety concerns the plan could pose, a few spoke to the content of the statute itself.

, D-133, said the legislature works to "make sure the laws we create are good ones."

Often, she said, they are flawed, and unintended, far-reaching problems can sprout. Support to amend the statute is "growing rapidly," Fawcett said, and she urged the commission to deny the application, allowing more time for the legislature to "bring affordable housing to Connecticut the right way."

Selectman Cristin McCarthy Vahey stepped up to speak, and said that while she supports the statute's intent, "this is not the way to address affordable housing in town."

The public hearing on the proposal concluded with a brief rebuttal by Sakonchick. According to the town calendar, the Plan and Zoning Commission meets again Tuesday, Sept. 18.

S. Frank September 12, 2012 at 05:08 PM
James H, Actually, if it met the zoning requirments, including those governing affordable housing, which I would have presumably reviewed before purchasing in the area I would not oppose it. I might not like it, but I would not oppose the developer right to develop his land to the highest & best use.
lbh September 13, 2012 at 02:51 AM
Darien actually won a 4 yr moratorium in 2010 as outlined by the 8-30g statute. Perhaps Fairfield should look into this. http://darien.patch.com/articles/darien-wins-long-sought-8-30g-moratorium
Chris DeSanctis September 14, 2012 at 11:54 AM
Yes, it is true that Darien qualified for a four-year moratorium on any new 8-30g applications. I am not a lawyer, so I can't speak with authority, but it appears that Fairfield is not even close to being able to do the same. To obtain a four-year moratorium, a town must have created since 1990 (the year 8-30g went into effect) what are called "housing equivalency points" (HEP) equal to 2% of its total housing units. According to the 2011 Annual Report of Fairfield's AH Committee, only 47 AH ownership units have been added since 1989. Even assuming that some of Fairfield's 266 elderly/disabled and its 40 Operation Hope and Deed-Restricted units were developed since 1990, most of them (e.g., Parish Court with 100 units and Sullivan-McKinney with 39 units go back to 1975 and 1941, respectively) were not. So, unfortunately, it appears that Fairfield would have to create quite a few new AH units to qualify for a four-year moratorium.
lbh September 14, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Thanks for the clarification, I did not know that.
JNG September 19, 2012 at 05:17 PM
The fact of the matter is that this legislation has been in place for 15 years or so. It came about as a response to exclusionary zoning in suburban communities putting an undue "burden" on cities to provide for moderate income families in addition to low income families. It was the Bi-partisan Blue Ribbon Committee's determination that by giving density bonuses for the market rate dwellings, they would subsidize the affordable component. It was actually a method to get Government OUT of the housing business with their housing projects and housing authorities and letting private capital and development provide for the pent up demand. Communities have had years to develop Smart Growth Plans, but keep kicking it down the block to the next administration. I sat in on one housing trial and heard a local Town Counsel cry out the proposal was spot zoning! The judge effectively agreed saying it is legalized spot zoning. How could it be anything other than that when your Town has forever excluded this type of housing completely? The problem is that suburbanites left the cities for large lots and cookie cutter lots. Now the density is coming to their backyards. IF Communities would all create some moderate density in-fill projects and mixed-use residential commercial areas, the need could be accommodated without significantly impacting the fabric of the community.

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