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Neighbors Slam Proposed Affordable Housing Project

The proposed development at 24 North Street calls for 11 units in four, 3.5-story buildings on a .41 acre parcel, at least 30 percent of which would be offered at affordable or below-market rate.

Ridgefield Modular Home Corp.'s application to build an affordable housing complex at 24 North Street met with strong opposition from neighbors during a P&Z public hearing held Tuesday at the Town Hall Annex.

The proposed development calls for 11 units in four, 3.5-story buildings on a .41 acre parcel, at least 30 percent of which would be offered at affordable or below-market rate. All four buildings would include ground floor parking garages with capacity for 1-2 cars per unit. In addition the property would include seven outdoor parking spaces for a total of 25 spaces.

Currently there is a single family home with detached garage on the property, which will be razed to make way for the new complex. Developer Anthony Guillaro of Bedford N.Y. is still yet to decide whether the units will be sold as condos or rented as apartments. Because the application falls under section 8-30g of the state's Affordable Housing Act, Ridgefield Modular Home Corp. can propose a much higher density than would normally be allowed under local zoning laws.

Most of the neighbors who spoke at the hearing expressed concerns over the density — the equivalent of about 26 units per acre, or roughly three times what would normally be allowed in the in the town’s highest-density multi-family zone — saying it was out of character with the rest of the neighborhood. In addition they expressed fear that because nearly all of the triangular-shaped lot would be covered by impervious surface, storm water runoff would be increased, thus impacting adjacent properties — a concern which was expressed by the commission members, acting in their capacity as the Inland Wetlands Board.

Calling it an "abomination," Helen Dimos, a resident of nearby Barlow Mountain Road, and member of Architectural Advisory Committee, which has also been reviewing the project, said she could not understand "why a developer would want to pick such an awkward-shaped site in a small neighborhood and put buildings [and parking] that cover almost the entire lot..."

"I am a landscaper with a degree in architecture and I'm very interested in planning and preserving the quality of this town," Dimos said, adding that North Street, which is close to downtown, is a "charming neighborhood" with an "ensemble of modest houses, set back from the street," stone walls and mature trees that line the road, and a cemetery that serves as open space.

"I am totally in favor of affordable housing but that's not what this project is about," Dimos said, clarifying that she was speaking as a neighbor and resident, not on behalf of the AAC. "This project is about jamming as many units as you can on a tiny little property, and disrupting a very lovely neighborhood."

John Brennan, of nearby Stonecrest Road, and a 38 year resident, said he drives on North Street frequently to get to other sections of town and is very familiar with the neighborhood.

"This project does not fit into that community," Brennan said. "I'm all for growth, but not that kind of growth... "

John Delia of North Street said he was concerned about the runoff from the property going into the wetlands area behind his house. "If any additional drainage from that property ends up [in the wetlands], the water will begin to seep into my back yard," he said.

Murat Yasanliel, of 18 North Street, whose property abuts 24 North Street, said he was concerned about the potential impact site development might have on the root systems of the mature trees along his property line.

He also said he was concerned that the height of the buildings being proposed — at three and a half stories —  would reduce the amount of sunlight he currently gets in his home.

Although the commission did not deliberate on the application the same evening, Commission Member John Katz did not refrain from expressing his displeasure with the application in its present form.

"In my experience I have never found an application... that is so generally offensive to the tenets of the planning section of the Town Plan of Conservation and Development," Katz said. "This paves over almost the entire half acre and includes structures that tower over the other properties in the area. It is just so vulgar and untidy and unnecessary. It will be judged under 8-30g standards — but I'm not restraining on expressing my opinion before that happens."

Representing Ridgefield Modular Home Corp. was attorney Catherine Cuggino, who reported that the project had been reviewed the by the town's Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA) and will be served by the town's sewer system, as well as public water supply.

Also presenting on behalf of the applicant was civil engineer Michael Mazzucco of Danbury, who addressed drainage and site development concerns; traffic engineer Mike Galante of Frederick P. Clark Associates; architect Dan Sharp of design firm Federico Associates; and soil scientist Otto Theall.

Although more than a dozen neighbors attended the public hearing, there was only enough time for about four of them to speak, due to the length of time it took for the experts to present their testimony and for the commission members to ask questions.

The public hearing will be continued on Dec. 18.

Mara November 21, 2012 at 01:24 PM
I am wondering if anyone on planning and zoning has driven by the unit that was approved on Gilbert? I live around the corner from it on Abbott. We chose to live here for the charm and to be able to walk to town. The new structure on Gilbert is terrible. You have destroyed this neighborhood. It looms over the surrounding houses as is completely out of place. I am not saying to not allow affordable housing, however the p&z laws MUST apply for new buildings. Traffic concerns alone should be grounds to turn down these projects. Has anyone else ever tried to turn left out of Gilbert? And this is before the new tenants move in and add to the traffic problems.
Rob Freeman Jr November 21, 2012 at 02:12 PM
The 8-30G property that is going up at the corner of Gilbert and New Streets is huge and offensive. It is an affront to anyone who lives in that area of town. Just approaching the property from any direction you are confronted with an imposing, aggressive and bizarre structure that makes the adjacent properties look like dollhouses. Any benefit of three units of affordable housing vs. the visual impact to the surrounding neighborhood is asymmetrical... People who objected to this property, myself included, brought up any number of valid concerns as to why it should have been rejected, including the fact that there is nowhere for visitors to park. Well, the workers are already illegally parking their huge trucks in the senior living facility across the street on a daily basis. RE: Tom's comment - Many of the people in this area DID vote Republican. However, IMHO this is not a partisan issue and frankly shouldn't be turned into one... I know tons of Democrats who hate 8-30G because the law is a nightmare plain and simple. The members of P&Z should walk by and look at the how the corner of Gilbert and New looks now to see an example of the nightmare in reality... Our leaders are paid by local taxpayers to protect the town and should not be afraid of lawsuits for taking a stand on projects like these. I'd rather suck it up and pay an extra $.50 cents a month in property taxes to defend a lawsuit than accept a law that ignores our Ridgefield's historical zoning.
Thomas Soukup November 21, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Traffic concerns only become a problem to the town when Stop & Shop wants to erect a new gas station. Truth be told, 11 units built on a .41 acre parcel is something you would expect to find in an inner city slum, not Ridgefield.
sebastian dangerfield November 21, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Rob Freeman I think the issue possibly can be a partisan issue, if this town government , never makes an application for a moratorium. How many points does Ridgefield have? I'm not sure I have ever heard Rudy speak of an affordable housing strategy. Or any desire to protect the current homeowners. Odd, since this was a driving force behind the Schlumberger purchase. Does Rudy want to limit affordable housing?
Rob Freeman Jr November 21, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Luca, my point is meant to be that whether you are a Democrat or Republican, 99% of the people of Ridgefield would agree that maintaining the town's character is an important issue... Indeed, a non-partisan issue. Affordable housing can and should be allowed to exist only without destroying established neighborhoods and town leaders should take a stand on this point. Politicians should stand up for protecting the town's character and budget for it. Darien has spent $350,000 over two years to fight 8-30g, or $175,000 per year. The Town of Ridgefield's budget includes $242,000 in full and pt salaries per year to Planning & Zoning, $626,000 in expenses associated with the town Golf Course and only $216,000 budgeted for legal. If Ridgefield spent what Darien spends, it would be less than a quarter of 1 percent of the town's budget to attempt to preserve the town's character.
Irene B November 21, 2012 at 05:51 PM
I live on New Street next door to the abominable building on the corner of Gilbert. The traffic just to get out of my driveway was terrible BEFORE they put this monster in. With more units, affordable housing or not, the traffic just to make a left turn is ridiculous even after rush hours and school busses. And yes, the trucks park outside so I can't see traffic speeding toward my driveway, and they DO speed, so just turning to get to the other side of the street is dangerous. You can be sure the first fatal accident there will be blamed on the drivers, not the lacking line of sight.
paul d. November 21, 2012 at 06:08 PM
8-30G is state legislation imposed on us by our Hartford representatives. People need to go town government meetings to hear our local officials speak. Not going, but commenting here is pretty silly.
Rob Freeman Jr November 21, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Yes, it's a state law... So what's the point of having local representation? Our local representatives have a responsibility to go to Hartford and fight against this law if the people of Ridgefield want them to. That's their job. I've heard local reps talk about 8-30g over and over but most of them suffer from excusitis (i.e. blame Hartford).
Jan Rifkinson November 21, 2012 at 07:21 PM
Real Estate, construction, etc. is a big constituency for the First Selectman. I'm not sure you can count on his enthusiastic support to oppose any kind of construction in Ridgefield which he views as the town's life blood.
Thomas J. November 21, 2012 at 07:29 PM
This is AMERICA, equality for all!
paul d. November 21, 2012 at 08:54 PM
Local reps can talk about it all they want - but it is talk. We just missed another opportunity to dismiss our state representative and senator. Will Mr. Frey and Ms. Boucher do anything about it? Will the Gov? Time to hold these people accountable for their votes and inaction in Hartford with the only tool we have - the vote. Speaking up at town meetings is a way to begin that pressure. I have seen Jan there a bunch, but I don't recognize these others by their name.
Mara November 21, 2012 at 09:38 PM
Equality for all should mean that ANY development, affordable or not should be subject to the P&Z rules and regulations. Rob and I went to several town meetings and joined grow Ridgefield together in attempts to stop the 3 developments that are currently being constructed. A lot of good it did. I am not sure what it would take for everyone that lives in town to understand that under this current law, any developer can swoop in, knock down your neighbor's house and put up a huge structure.
sebastian dangerfield November 21, 2012 at 11:04 PM
Rob, I have a different opinion. Democrats want 830g. It is supported in Hartford, not in Fairfield County. It is no secret that Rudy has higher political aspirations. The thought process is, to align yourself with Hartford Democrat political machine. Fighting against 830g would not, in my opinion, help Rudy's cause. allow it to come before the floor. Sad to say, politics does play a role. With respect to Darien--the evidence runs contrary to your view that partisan politics does not come into play. Evonne Klein, a Democrat was First Selectman for 6 years. When a Republican first Selectman took over in 2009, he immediately asked his staff to determine the status of 830g. It was found that there had been enough points since 2003/4. The application was made and approved. The Democrats pleaded ignorance, and perhaps that is the reason. However, they didnt even try to count the points. 830g for Democrat politicians is in fact a partisan issue. Particularly for those with higher aspirations.
sebastian dangerfield November 21, 2012 at 11:11 PM
pauld I think it's more an indictment on the social liberal agenda reigning supreme in hartford; where republicans cannot even get issues out of committee, than in any fault of John Frey. John frey is ineffective, I agree.....but replacing him with either a more solid republican, or a democrat will not change the culture in Hartford. That requires the electorate to properly identify the shortcomings of having too many of one party in office. Look at the results , on a national picture, when you have had the same party control all branches of government. It is almost always universally dismal. Compromise brings forth the best solutions, and having total control, generally results in disaster. That is going on today in Connecticut.
Kathleen November 22, 2012 at 12:13 AM
Is having a fast food chain only found in an inner city slum? God forbid there is any Wendy's, etc.in this town. We once had a Friendlys and a Duchess where kids enjoyed going. The high class snobs here would think that was below them....Ridgefield would become a slum.
LuLu Lamperelli November 22, 2012 at 01:55 AM
Tom, what would it take to get you on the Republican ticket?
Henry Glawson November 22, 2012 at 06:53 AM
Just a thought: maybe Ridgefield's zoning laws need to be adjusted so builders aren't forced to rely on 8-30g to get their projects approved. This would certainly give the town more control over what ges built.
Thomas Soukup November 22, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Kathleen I think you missed my point regarding S&S,however, if protecting the beauty of this town qualifies me as a "Ridgefield Snob", then count me in. As to "fast food", there are several places to eat at the Danbury Mall if that's your choice. Certainly there are any number of pizza places in Ridgefield for the kids to hang out, assuming the owners approve.
Tubeworm November 22, 2012 at 03:35 PM
The building looks like any other house in Ridgefield... Get over it and quit acting like babies. Tom Falconieri - nobody gives a rats ass in what you have to rant about.
Henry Glawson November 22, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Once again, Tom, you decided not to read my post, as your response is just the boiler-plate language that you always use on these message boards and has nothing to do do with what I said. Listen- developers are not charities. All else being equal, they would rather build developments where they don't have to offer reduced rent. This is pretty obvious- given the choice between leasing identical units at full value or having I offer a reduced rate, they will choose the former. Thus, the only reason developers use 8-30g is because it allows them to circumvent normal zoning code. Now, you ask, why would developers want to circumvent normal zoning code? Simple: because Ridgefield's zoning code makes it very difficult for developers to build anything. So rather than fight their way through a protracted battle with P&Z, developers will use 8-30g to force whatever project they want on the town. Now, if the zoning laws were more friendly to developers, they would have an incentive to avoid 8-30g because they the wouldn't have to offer reduced rents in order to comply. Thus, they are more likely to build within the zoning code, and this would offer the town more control over the developments. Instead, the town refuses, and then developers end up building whatever they want anyway.
Henry Glawson November 22, 2012 at 03:44 PM
+1
Henry Glawson November 22, 2012 at 03:45 PM
...still don't care.
Proud Flaming Liberal November 22, 2012 at 03:51 PM
TF - what a pathetic way to spend Thanksgiving, you need some serious intervention. ps: The Patch has rules, follow them or go away! You are solely responsible for the Content that you post on the Service or transmit to other users. Without limitation, you agree that you will not post or transmit to other users anything that contains Content that: is defamatory, abusive, obscene, profane or offensive;
sebastian dangerfield November 22, 2012 at 04:46 PM
henry A thoughtful response---but i think you are incorrect. 830g allows you to, as in the case here, buy a 0.41 acre property, in a residential area, and build 11 units (and garage space for 20+ cars). Less than half an acre and they build 4 affordable units (at a small loss) and 7 market rate units. 7! 7 units they can make profit on. Lets do math (based on total presumption). With each market rate unit, the presumed margin on each unit is 100-120k. The affordable units lose 7500 each =realizing a 30k loss. net profit is 740k less the cost of the property. In this case, Ill estimate it at 475k. (and it all scales out) Therefore in 1 year of development, the developer makes a 275k net profit on a 475k investment. 57% Return on investment. Tell me you can make that return anywhere, let alone real estate development these days. Reduce the project to 7 units the guy has to build 3 affordable and left with 4 market rate==he wont do it. The law is flawed , because it automatically forces developers to build intrusive projects in residential neighborhoods. There is plenty of land in Ridgefield to build appropriate projects. This law has only 2 possible results 1- blackmailing neighbors to buy out developer. 2--ruin surrounding property values, in order to achieve a liberal agenda. Henry, your solution would be to authorize an apartment complex next to a single family house. There is no way that should happen.
Proud Flaming Liberal November 22, 2012 at 09:02 PM
"It is ok for me to except this as i know the liberal mind" ACCEPT is the proper word genius !
Henry Glawson November 22, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Once again Patch has demonstrated its dedication to journalistic integrity and the free exchange of ideas by deleting a contentious discussion thread. I understand that Patch needs to moderate these discussions. But, by routinely deleting user comments, Patch routinely violates the very spirit of the one concept that journalists and journalism as a whole is sworn to protect: the free exchange of ideas, however contentious or unappealing as such ideas may be.
Proud Flaming Liberal November 23, 2012 at 03:13 AM
Cant spell i know that. I am dyslectic - haha, that's what most ignorant redneck conservatives idiots claim!
sebastian dangerfield November 23, 2012 at 04:45 AM
flamer Should be: Haha. That is what most ignorant, redneck, conservative idiots claim! (Sentences begin with a capital letter. You forgot a bunch of commas, after each label. And you say 'conservatives idiots" --no plural in conservative in this case. By your definition, what does that make you?
Henry Glawson November 23, 2012 at 06:52 PM
Tom- What are you even talking about? More importantly, who are you talking to? Do you even know? No, you don't. I didn't call you a redneck. "Proud Flaming Liberal" called you that. So your entire rant was directed at the wrong person. Go back and read the thread. Nothing I've said was any kind of insult toward you. So, being the proud and honorable man that I would think you are, I suppose an apology should be coming my way. By the way, I'm not a liberal. Your turn, skippy.
Henry Glawson November 24, 2012 at 10:48 AM
We can all thank Tom Falconieri for these developments. He's been a big supporter of 8-30g housing for many years.

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