With the approval late last year of in town and two more applications in the works, Ridgefield officials are starting to wonder whether the state affordable housing law is right for the town.
Planning and Zoning Commission chairperson Becky Mucchetti and Town Planner Betty Brosius approached the Board of Selectmen recently to seek moratorium from the state from the current affordable housing law, allowing the commission more leeway in refusing development.
Section 8-30g of the state code states that, if a municipality's total housing is less than 10 percent "affordable" relative to the median income, developers that propose projects that are at least 30 percent affordable may do so with less stringent zoning laws.
The burden is on the town, in fact, to prove that such a development would affect health or safety -- otherwise, the project is nearly impossible to stop despite local zoning laws.
Ridgefield may never reach 10 percent affordable housing, but the law allows for towns with over two percent to request a four-year moratorium if the town meets standards of affordable housing suitable to its needs, according to the statute.
Mucchetti showed concern for recent applications that have come in, including one at 593 Main Street and another at 28 Gilbert Street, two locations near the center of town.
"Our concern is that more applications are coming in, and we're seeing a focus on Main Street," Mucchetti said. "We can't consider the impact on neighbors or the character of the town, and people are beginning to mobilize."
Two years ago, the , and officials in Ridgefield consider the town to be in a similar position.
"The moratorium process is very complex," Brosius said. "Very few moratoriums have been granted, and it's something not many towns have done -- there are very detailed restrictions and it could take several months."
The object of the moratorium, Mucchetti said, is not to prevent affordable housing in Ridgefield but to allow more freedom to the Planning and Zoning Commission when applying the town's zoning laws.
"There is a great need for affordable housing, but the language is very restricting," Mucchetti said. "There is a breaking point."
"We think this is important," she added.
The Board of Selectmen showed restrained support for the action and agreed to look further into the process in the upcoming months.