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Developer sues over rejection of 'affordable' Berwick-Fairchild apartments

Published 1:39 pm, Wednesday, September 3, 2014

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  • The developer has appealed the Town Plan and Zoning Commission's denial of a 33-unit "affordable" apartment complex on property on Berwick and Fairchild avenues. Photo: Contributed Photo /  Fairfield Citizen contributed
    The developer has appealed the Town Plan and Zoning Commission's denial of a 33-unit "affordable" apartment complex on property on Berwick and Fairchild avenues. Photo: Contributed Photo

 

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Another denial of a proposed "affordable" apartment complex by the Town Plan and Zoning Commission is being appealed by the developer.

Berwick Fairchild & Associates, LLC, filed its appeal last week in Bridgeport Superior Court. The developer applied for a zoning amendment, zone change and special permit to construct a 33-unit apartment complex on property at 110 Berwick Ave. and 145 Fairchild Ave. under the state's 8-30(g) statute. The law allows developers to propose projects that exceed local limits on density if units are set aside that comply with state affordability guidelines, and also places the burden of proof on local officials if they reject such applications.

The application for the three-story apartment building, with a total floor area of 33,901 square feet, on 0.45-acre, was denied unanimously Aug. 12 by the Town Plan and Zoning Commission. The property is across the street from another affordable apartment complex on Fairchild Avenue, which was recently completed. That development initially was also denied by the TPZ, but the denial was overturned by the courts.

TPZ members expressed concerns about how increased traffic and off-street parking would affect travel and access by emergency vehicles to the neighborhood. They also cited consequences from potential flooding when the adjacent Rooster River overflows, and the density of the proposed development.

In the appeal filed by lawyer Bryan LeClerc, a former chairman of the TPZ, the developer claims the commission's decision is not supported by sufficient evidence, and does not protect a "substantial public interest" in public health or safety. The commission also failed to "weigh any such public interest against the demonstrable need for affordable housing" in Fairfield.

According to guidelines set by the state Department of Economic and Community Development, only 2 percent of the town's housing qualifies as affordable.

While a report to the commission from Assistant Planning Director James Wendt said the development, as proposed, would exacerbate flooding and traffic issues in the neighborhood, he also presented the TPZ with an alternative development plan, which the commission dismissed.

Wendt suggested the commission approve the proposed development, but with conditions of approval that would include reducing its size to 13 two-bedroom apartments. At that size, four apartments would have to be classified as affordable housing.

He said a 13-unit apartment building would have allowed for adequate parking spaces on the property for residents and also would reduce the number of cars traveling to and from the development, as well as the number that would have to be moved when the Rooster River floods.