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Affordable Housing Controversy Leads To Approval Of Main St. Application

The commission's final approval, though, came under circumstances unforeseen -- a commissioner's alleged misstep according to the state statute may have compromised the town's legal standing in the long run.

After several motions made this Tuesday and the last, the Ridgefield Planning and Zoning Commission approved last night

The commission's final approval, though, came under circumstances unforeseen -- a commissioner's alleged misstep according to the state statute may have compromised the town's legal standing in the long run.

According to state statute 8-30g -- the "affordable housing" law -- building proposals such as this one with 30 percent or more affordable units are exempt from local zoning laws, and the commission can only enact "reasonable changes" to the development to protect public interests in health, safety or other matters.

The applicant, developer Patrick Downend's 593 Main Street Ridgefield LLC, had originally proposed 16 units to be built on just over an acre of land located across from the Casagmo Condominiums on Main St. -- although Downend made several modifications to the plan during the process, the commission's main concern rested on the number of units.

In this case, members of the commission felt a reduction in the number of units would be sufficient to protect these public interests -- working with eight members (Commissioner George Hanlon recused himself), the commission approved a 13-unit development after voting down applications for 12 units and 16 units respectively.

All except Commissioner Michael Autuori supported the motion -- Autuori said last week that he couldn't support any motion for the Main St. development because of a lack of compliance with zoning laws and that the district was created as a contract between the town and the residents that should not be broken.

But zoning laws are not something a commission is allowed to consider when dealing with the affordable housing statute.

Therefore, the applicant requested Autuori's recusal from the proceedings because of a "predetermination" held by the commissioner. Autuori granted the recusal but denied any wrongdoing.

In response, members of the commission voted Tuesday night to approve all 16 units to avoid litigation based on Autuori's cause for recusal.

"Through collective bumbling, we've created an issue for ourselves that transcends a number of units," said Commissioner John Katz. "Our position going forth seems less and less defensible -- not less and less desirous, but less and less defensible."

Katz went on to call state statute 8-30g an "excrescence."

Philip Mische was the only commissioner Tuesday night to oppose the 16-unit application.

"We have to do the right thing for both the developer and the town," Mische said. "But an uphill climb has been steepened."

Commission Chair Rebecca Mucchetti noted the several modifications made to the property since the original proposal: a redesign to scale back, a more residential look, a parking lot in back rather than in front, an increase in screening, a compliance with setbacks, the recognition of a historic stone wall and a relocated infiltration system.

Mucchetti felt confident the project would be upheld on appeal on the basis of these modifications and the commission's actions.

"As we look at the project per se and the application per se, it is the town we're trying to protect here," Katz said. "This is a mess, and it is a mess that could inure to negative results for the town of Ridgefield."

Lynn C May 02, 2012 at 12:57 PM
At least some one can stand up and admit a "bumble" and that this is a mess......instead of just blaming someone or something else
Mara May 02, 2012 at 01:24 PM
How far have the town officials gone to get a moratorium on 8-30g?? I want to know where Ridgefield stands in that process.
Michael Gibney May 02, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Hi, Mara. I asked about this yesterday, and Town Planner Betty Brosius continues along in that process. It's slow going with all the other work she has to do, she said, but it's coming along. I will have updates on that story when there's something to report. -MG
John Symon May 02, 2012 at 01:58 PM
I don't understand Phil Mische's comment. Marconi was asked last June to apply for a moratorium. Nothing yet. Unbelieveable. Pathetic. Just two words that cone to mind.
Hopeful May 02, 2012 at 02:11 PM
"It's slow going with all the other work she has to do..." I suggest our Town Planner make the moratorium our #1 priority.
Bob J May 02, 2012 at 03:26 PM
In defense of our Town Planner, whose job very few people understand, there are statutory deadlines that MUST be met for every application that is submitted to the town for zoning and/ or inland-wetlands approval. To avoid many expensive lawsuits and in some cases, AUTOMATIC APPROVAL, for the failure to process actual applications in a timely manner, the Planner MUST give first priority to the applications that come in the door. And there are more coming in the door than there have been in at least half a decade with staffing levels designed for the quiet times we've been in the last several years. It's really that simple.
Hopeful May 02, 2012 at 04:15 PM
Then hire more manpower! It's really that simple. But I think it's the wrong approach to say someone is too busy to look into it. I can't imagine anything more important to the future of Ridgefield at the moment than this 8-30g thing. We've already allocated $5,000 for a lawyer to look into it. If another $10,000 or $20,000 is needed for a consultant to handle this project, then so be it. But get it done! That's my opinion.
sebastian dangerfield May 03, 2012 at 12:58 AM
john If you are a democrat-and aspire to be something more than a first selectman--you say you will look into a moratorium, but never do. its as simple as that. the things i witness our buddy rudy doing, rarely seem to be reliable.
Tom Falconieri May 03, 2012 at 02:28 AM
You must be kidding. KING RUDY knew we would be at or above 2% a few years ago. And did nothing. You get the government you choose. And ridgefield has been choosing rather BADLY fir app 15 YEARS. Get used to this slum building. It aint going away any time soon. Now once again where is the affordable housing ZEALOTS. Are you out their MR Goldenbirg?????
Tom Falconieri May 03, 2012 at 09:41 AM
OK as a native i have seen this town go down the tubes like a freight train!!!!!! Have a deal for you. Take a good look around town and tell me it looks like a QUAINT LITTLE NEW ENGLAND TOWN!!!! Once you look around and really look you will see what i am talking about. Ridgefield's CHARM IS WELL GONE!!!!
Bob J May 03, 2012 at 02:38 PM
Great idea, Hopeful- they could definitely use more help up there. Why don't you contact the First Selectman's office and get that on the agenda? I would suggest a Deputy Planner (Like Betty was to Ozzie for all those years) and a part-time administrative helper.
Miche May 03, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Problem is, and I could be wrong, I think some people don't want to solve the problem. I think some people see themselves as do-gooders who are saving mankind by allowing affordable housing to get built on Main Street. A nice sentiment, but I for one am not willing to give up Main Street to ineffectively solve some other town's problem. Besides, I think it wouldn't do any good to call the town and suggest a consultant be hired. I think the town is already very aware it could hire outside help to do the necessary footwork on the moratorium. But I think some people don't want the paperwork to get done. Am I wrong Bob? You'd know better than anyone. Has everyone put their cards on the table?
sebastian dangerfield May 03, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Sebastian (the spell checker) Is that a run-on sentence? Thanks pal for your endorsement. Once I see any ideas other than pure criticism out of you, Ill be able to comment. But, you say things like "your assumptions are wrong" but never ever say a thing worth considering. Ever think of that? Now check if I have my apostrophe's in the correct place, and then , if not, you'll have your opportunity to write something again. haha....
Bob J May 03, 2012 at 05:47 PM
I know they are as busy as I remember them being up there, ever, at least since the end of last year, so the staffing could certainly need a boost, AT LEAST in the short term until we determine how sustained this bump-up is. As to 8-30g, I think just about EVERYONE in town thinks a moratorium is a good idea, at least to provide some breathing room to formulate a more permanent solution. I have no indication that anyone is intentionally dragging their feet on this. I mean, why would they?
Christine E. May 03, 2012 at 06:10 PM
I have to agree, Tom. While other's always complained about the lack of chain stores and colorful signage, I always thought that was just a part of Ridgefield's unique charm. Copps Hill Plaza and Walgreens are eyesores. Such a bummer.
Shredder May 03, 2012 at 07:27 PM
You can pluralize a word by simply adding an "s" to it in many cases. Apostrophe is one such case. That is, unless you meant to refer to your "apostrophe's inn".
TAB May 03, 2012 at 07:53 PM
BobJ, The fact that Rudy M. was informed of the potential for acheiving moratorium in July 2011 but did not act on that information until January 2012 raises concerns about feet dragging, intentional or otherwise. Although Rudy responded when asked about the delay that he was busy at the time dealing with the power outages, he was able to find enough time in his schedule to negotiate the Schlumberger purchase. If you look at the public record on Schlumberger, you will not find any mention of the moratorium as another path the Town could pursue to prevent (at least during the moratorium period) overly dense development at the property.
Michael Gibney May 04, 2012 at 12:24 AM
Just to be clear: The commenter with the name "Miche" has no relation to Planning and Zoning Commissioner Philip Mische. Thank you. -MG
Tom Falconieri May 04, 2012 at 01:38 AM
Christine E do you remember when signs had to be BLACK& WHITE ONLY in this town. Well the invaders had to destroy this and promise to SUE the town over them. The Democrats folded and NOW WE HAVE THE BEAUTIFUL WELLS FARGO disgusting sign right on main st. What a shame and their are hundreds of other storys that i can post about the CHANGE MONGERS.. You can move from the city to the SUBURBS and brag to your friends about ho lovely it is!!! Untill you smell the MANURE and want the FARMS BANNED. This is exactly what happened in this ONCE NICE QUAINT TOWN. It was invaded by people that really did not want change after all. !!!
Bob J May 04, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Actually, Tom, it was the CT Supreme Court, in ruling on color restrictions in a different town, found that a town could regulate signage based on size and location only. It ruled that color was, essentially content, and as such was protected by the FIRST amendment. The government can't tell you what you can and cannot say, with certain restrictions (hate speech, threats, shouting "fire" in a crowded theater). So, based on its reasoning, I think you'll agree that they were correct.
Not_P&Z_related May 04, 2012 at 02:23 PM
True. Sorry P&Z. No overlap intended. My "Miche" is from the Miche handbag. (Everyone should buy one!) To avoid confusion I'll choose a different name in the future.
Not_P&Z_related May 04, 2012 at 02:27 PM
The darned thing is, sticking with black and white signs would have helped business in this town, in my view. We would be known as that quaint town where everything is retro. People would make it a destination. Sometimes to stand out, less is more.
sebastian dangerfield May 04, 2012 at 06:21 PM
sebastian Again You need to understand where to put a period or a comma. This is important stuff to you. So , can you get it correct? I personally dont care (don't) about spelling and grammar and typos--but if you do, and that's the only place you feel you can win a point--then how about showing me that you can write correctly. Or is the occupy wall street way? Ill complain about how you dont do it right, yet place zero onus or responsibility onto myself? I did the apostrophe as a joke...shredder and sebastian. I dont think its possessive. (just like im missing apostrophe's here and adding them in wrong place elsewhere--get it? )

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