Selectmen contract former Ridgefield Town Planner to draft loophole-blocking affordable housing application
NEW CANAAN — The green-lighting of 40 additional affordable housing units at Millport Apartments expected in January may grant the town a brief respite from a state law that enables developers to build without regard for existing zoning regulations.
Still, the Board of Selectmen is taking no chances.
They voted Tuesday to enter into a contract with Betty Brosius, Ridgefield’s recently retired town planner and a tried hand in successfully applying for moratoriums from the state’s 8-30g laws, which mandates that all municipalities work to create a housing stock that is 10 percent affordable.
Under the agreement, Brosius would work to draft an application to the state Department of Housing and attorney Tim Hollister, who wrote the 8-30g law, that, if accepted, would award New Canaan a four-year moratorium.
A successfully approved moratorium is of grave importance to many in town, including Town Planner Steve Palmer.
“The zoning regulations in any town typically are the first and foremost thing the town can rely on when considering how it wants to develop its community. The commission is always in a position of authority to determine how the town will preserve itself and grow,” said Palmer, who spoke before the board for the first time after taking over for Steve Kleppin as town planner. “8-30 has kind of thrown that into a tilt and it’s always in the back of every commission member’s mind, and every applicant’s mind, to use to their advantage potentially in order to see development the way they want to.”
New Canaan is still far away from the 10 percent required by law. With the certificates of occupancy expected for the 40 units in Millport and the conclusion of construction of 33 additional units in the same location, however, the town may meet requirements for a moratorium.
A moratorium can be applied for when 2 percent of dwelling units in a town meet the requirements of affordable housing, Palmer told the selectmen. Points are assigned based on different types of units and their income levels.
Brosius said there is incentive to apply sooner, rather than later, not just to stymie rogue developers, but because the 2020 census would likely see the number of dwelling units in town rise, bringing with it the number of required affordable units. According to the 2010 census, the town has 7,551 dwelling units.
The moratorium, however, is not a halt to building affordable housing. Scott Hobbs, chairman of New Canaan’s Housing Authority, has expressed a desire to continue building affordable units in Canaan Parish after the completion of Millport, but Brosius recommended a wait-and-see policy.
“The moratorium recognizes that over a short period of time, you’ve created some affordable housing, so let’s give this town a break for four years while they develop more affordable housing and show us that they’re incrementally increasing their affordable housing numbers,” Brosius said.
The board was unanimous in its support of contracting Brosius, who will be paid between $6,000 and $12,000 for her work.
“This is more than necessary. We will support it 100 percent,” First Selectman Rob Mallozzi said. “We’ve worked so hard as a community, on our own, to not be dictated to, to be able to do the type of affordable housing that I think the three of us, and I think the whole town, are extremely proud of.”