The Ridgefield Planning & Zoning Commission on Tuesday reviewed a preliminary plan submitted by by for a mixed use development including affordable housing at 159 Danbury Road.
Michael Eppoliti, owner and president of Eppoliti Realty Co., presented the conceptual plan for the one acre parcel located in a B-3 commercial zone, a designation which permits office space and service-oriented businesses in addition to residential uses.
"We're considering a development scenario where we would have two interconnected buildings each with a footprint of approximately 3,000 square feet," Eppoliti explained, adding that the two residential style buildings would be connected by a stairwell and elevator tower.
Eppoliti said the plan includes 6,000 square foot of commercial use on the ground floor, designated for service-oriented businesses and/or retail. The second and third floors of the two buildings, he said, would have a total of 12 residential units, including eight two-bedroom and four one bedroom units, with a yet-to-be-determined number of units designated "affordable" under the state's affordable housing statute, 8-30g.
The development, including parking, would cover 42 percent of the site — well within the 75 percent allowable in a B-3 zone, Eppoliti said. "Building coverage is 13 percent of the site," he said, adding that the development will in no way impact the wetlands to the rear of the property.
The project's parking lot, with 50 to 55 spaces, will be designed "with no hammerhead parking," Eppoliti said, "so there's no need to back out into the street." He added that currently there's a parking lot with 37 parking spaces on site, but no existing structures.
Eppoliti said his Ridgefield-based firm "considered different development scenarios for the property" including making it all office space.
"Under conventional zoning, depending on building layout, I believe we can accommodate 55 to 58 parking spaces — that would be for 12,000 square feet of medical office space, 17,000 square feet of Class A office space, or 14,000 square feet of service use," he said, discussing the options that had been explored. "Any of those scenarios would also allow for two apartments [on the third floor]."
"We also looked at strictly residential, utilizing 8-30g," Eppoliti said. "Under that scenario we could achieve 55 parking spaces, which would yield 23 two bedroom units; 30 one bedroom units; or 17 two bedroom apartments and eight one bedroom apartments, or any combination thereof…"
Board member John Katz pointed out that retail is not permitted in a B-3 zone and said Eppoliti would need to get a zone change in order to include retail in the plan. Katz added that he would not support the conceptual plan if it includes retail.
"I'm not prepared to go forward with an approval of the concept, if the concept includes retail," Katz said, adding that in his view, "retail is not appropriate for that spot…"
Eppoliti said although he understood that retail was not permissible in the zone, "we're not really applying under the B-3 zone [regulations], we're applying under 8-30g… which overrides all local zoning regulations."
"But 8-30g does not allow you to change the underlying zone," Town Planner Betty Brosius said. "It allows you to build affordable housing, but it does not allow you to change the zone for other uses that are not normally permitted in that zone."
Eppoliti, however, said his new legal counsel had advised him that the retail use would be allowable under 8-30g.
Board Vice Chairman Patrick Walsh said he believed that 8-30g "only applies to the residential part, which must be a 'set aside' development," however the commissioners agreed that they would need to verify that assumption with town counsel.
Walsh asked Brosius if she had ever heard of any mixed use developments where the affordable housing is built "over the commercial," as proposed in the plan. Brosius said yes, it has happened in other towns, "but as far as I know it has only happened in zones where retail was already permitted."
The commissioners made it clear that they do not support the proposed retail use. Eppoliti said if it is determined that retail is not permissible, under 8-30g, "then we will move forward with development for the approved uses."
Faced with a , officials in Ridgefield, seeking to , have on which, if approved, would temporarily relinquish it from having the comply with the 8-30g statute.
Meanwhile the town Affordable Housing Committee is exploring the possibility of a public-private partnership and land swap deal that would pave the way for a .