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Wednesday, May 23 News

New Milford Zoning Commission concerned about affordable housing project

An affordable housing complex is likely coming to town, despite safety concerns raised by the Zoning Commission about its placement and design.

Because the application was submitted under 8-30g, a state law that only lets towns reject an affordable housing project for public health or safety issues, the proposal to build 30 multifamily units at 69 Lanesville Road, near Harrybrooke Park, is likely to be approved. Nine of the units will be affordable.

“We are handcuffed as a zoning commission with 8-30g and there’s nothing we can do about it,” said Chairman Bill Taylor. “I don’t like this application but we are a body of law, not a body of opinion.”

The plan shows 24 of the units will have two bedrooms and six will have three. The complex will consist of five buildings on the 2-acre property. The applicant, Infinity Development, is still deciding if the units will be rented or sold.

Taylor said this proposal would be better suited on another property due to its size, but he said they would be unable to fight it in court, especially because they can not point to specific incidents of safety concerns.

Zoning commission members and residents who spoke during a public hearing last week said this will most likely

attract young families. They were worried it would increase traffic and make it dangerous for the pedestrians, especially children, to cross the street, which is a narrow road with a sharp curve.

Members also argued there should be more parking spaces, because most people will use the garages for storage and not parking.

Neil Marcus, the attorney representing the applicant, said this site works for the complex. He said parking is considered a convenience and is not required under 8-30g, though this project exceeds New Milford’s parking regulations by offering 78 parking spaces, which is two per unit and some overflow.

During a previous meeting, Marcus said the assumption that it isn’t safe for children is unfounded. He noted there are no facts on record to prove that there are valid safety issues that they can’t address and they’ve already added fencing, fire lanes, a crosswalk and play area.

Richard Saitta, a commission member, said he attended an affordable housing workshop and recognized the need for it in town, but said this proposal is not thoughtful about the community and does not give any consideration to the safety of the children who will most likely move in.

Saitta said the town “has been trampled so many times by people holding up 8-30g” but he said there are safety concerns. He said the “arrogance of past victories has emboldened the applicant” to not implement best practices.

Marcus said Saitta’s comments illustrate why the 8-30g law was passed in the first place. He said towns have to increase their housing options, not just the cities.

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Residents have urged the project developers to preserve a historic house that is believed to have been built on the property in the 1800s and possibly incorporate it into the designs.

“This is a property that speaks to the historic district we’re in now,” said resident Helen Applebaum. “It should be prized and kept for future generations.”

Marcus said he appreciates historical preservation, but said this particular building has been changed so much over the years, it is no longer a classic example of this historic architecture. He said it’s also very expensive to restore to how it was.

Katrina Koerting|Reporter

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