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.