An affordable housing developer, whose proposal to build rental apartments on Fairchild Avenue was rebuffed by the Town Plan and Zoning Commission, has filed a formal complaint against the town with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Richard Freedman, president of Garden Homes Management, alleges the town is discriminating against his plans because the rejected apartment project would have housed minorities. Of the 54 units proposed, 27 would be designated as "affordable" under income-eligibility criteria.

Meanwhile, the TPZ is trying to work out a settlement with another developer who successfully sued the commission to overturn its denial of a 12-unit affordable housing development on Campfield Drive.

After a recent closed executive session, the commission voted unanimously to authorize the town attorney to "effectuate a settlement with Landco," the Campfield developer. A Superior Court judge had previously ordered that the application be approved.

"The commission is looking to resolve the litigation," Town Attorney Stanton Lesser said of the Campfield Drive project. "I think the case will be resolved."

Lesser, however, had no comment on the HUD complaint and investigation, which cites the town's own strategic action plan submitted to HUD in applying for its annual allocation of Community Development Block Grant funds. During a public hearing on the application, a TPZ commission member said the town's application states what is needed in order to secure the federal funding.

The Garden Homes' complaint to HUD states "the purpose and the effect of respondent's denial of his building affordable rental units is to prevent low-income minority populations from moving into Fairfield," violating the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974.

Under federal law, the town can file an answer to the complaint within 10 days after receiving notification from HUD, which will undertake an impartial investigation "and, at the same time, encourage all sides to reach an agreement," according to a May 10 letter from Timothy M. Robison, acting Region 1 director of the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

The investigation must be completed within 100 days of the date of the official filing of the complaint, which was May 8.

If the investigation finds "reasonable cause to believe that an unlawful discriminatory housing practice has occurred, the department must issue a charge," and the parties can choose to have the case heard by an administrative law judge or referred for trial in U.S. District Court.

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