Lawsuit filed over Fairfield TPZ's rejection of 'affordable' Bronson apartments
Published 12:10 pm, Thursday, August 14, 2014
As promised, an appeal of the Town Plan and Zoning Commission's recent rejection of a 95-unit "affordable" apartment complex on lower Bronson Road has been filed in Bridgeport Superior Court.
Since the application from Garden Homes Management was filed with the TPZ under the state's 8-30(g) statute, the burden of proof showing the denial was based on health and safety concerns falls on the town.
The appeal, filed by Caleb Hamel, a lawyer for the Stamford-based developer, claims the commission "failed to state any valid or proper reason for its decision" and its decision is not supported by the evidence. It also states the decision is contrary to interest and needs of the town for additional affordable housing, and to "the extent there are valid or proper reasons for denial of the application, the defendant commission failed to address conditions or modifications" as required by the state statutes.
Garden Homes Management has also sent a fair housing complaint to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, much as it did when the TPZ denied a previous apartment project on Fairchild Avenue.
In the letter, Richard K. Freedman, president of Garden Homes, wrote, "The commission's bias was obvious in its aggressive and adversarial treatment of my experts, a stark contrast to their accommodating treatment of the opposition's experts."
Freedman said since 2011, four affordable housing projects have been proposed in Fairfield and all four have been denied.
The TPZ's unanimous denial of the Bronson Road application, after 16 hours of public hearings over several nights, took place last month.
Town Attorney Stanton Lesser said, "We'll defend the appeal in court, but other than that, I have no comment."
The developer's proposal sought permission to build the apartment complex on 2.7 acres of land at 92-140 Bronson Road, property bordered by an entrance ramp to Interstate 95 and Metro-North railroad tracks.
At the last night of hearings, Garden Homes proposed three conditions of approval that would add three additional handicapped parking spaces and eliminate one regular parking spot and one apartment unit. A fire truck turnaround would be created, eliminating another 3 units.
Much of the appeal centers on the TPZ's concerns about access to the site by emergency vehicles, and cites testimony from Fire Chief Richard Felner that, despite some difficulty, firefighters would be able to access the property in the event of an emergency.
The town has lost a previous appeal by Garden Homes, which led to construction of a 54-unit affordable apartment complex on Fairchild Avenue. The commission's denial of a 12-unit affordable condominium complex was also overturned by the courts.