Round II: Hearing on controversial Bronson apartment plan continues tonight
Published 5:55 am, Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Plans for a 95-unit apartment complex on lower Bronson Road, with units designated as "affordable" rentals, got a first public review in front of the Town Plan and Zoning Commission Tuesday night, but in an unusual step, the hearing is scheduled to continue tonight.
The session starts at 7:30 p.m. at McKinley School.
Neighbors, who strongly oppose the proposal, did not get a chance to comment at Tuesday's hearing.
As lawyer John Fallon and his team of experts presented details of the apartment project from Garden Homes Management for 92-140 Bronson Road, TPZ members questioned the width of the driveway, the lack of sidewalks, whether there would be enough parking for all the tenants, and whether public access to the Mill River needs to be provided.
The three-story building, with parking below on ground level, would house 37 studio and 58 one-bedroom apartments. The project is seeking approval for a zoning compliance and a coastal site plan under the state's 8-30g affordable housing statute, which puts the burden of proof on the zoning panel should it vote to deny the application.
Fallon said the property is bounded by the Mill River, Interstate 95, the Metro-North Railroad tracks and the parking lot for a shopping center on the Post Road. Across the street are condominiums.
"We have, as a community, given sincere lip service to affordable housing," Fallon said, "but we haven't addressed it as we sit here in 2014.
Garden Homes is currently finishing construction of a 54-unit affordable apartment complex on Fairchild Avenue, and the TPZ has yet to vote on an application for another affordable apartment complex on Berwick and Fairchild avenues.
Of the 22 municipalities in the state that received block grants from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, Fallon said, Fairfield ranks last in supplying housing that meets state affordable criteria, with 2.6 percent of the local housing stock in compliance with those guidelines.
One of the first areas of contention arose in regard to the proposed width of the driveway leading from the complex to Bronson Road. Town Engineer Laura Pulie has recommended it be 24 feet wide to allow for emergency vehicle access should cars be parked in the driveway.
The application calls for a 20-foot width. "Is there an issue with 24 feet?" asked TPZ Chairman Matthew Wagner. "Do you not have sufficient room to accommodate those recommendations?"
Fallon said because of a state DOT right-of-way, there is not enough property to provide a 24-foot wide driveway, but said during a code review, the fire marshal had no problem with the 20-foot width.
"We think the 20-foot access roadway, based upon all the data, is adequate," Fallon said.
He also said that same DOT property also prevents the developer from building sidewalks because they would have to end about 15 feet from Bronson Road.
Kermit Hua, the applicant's traffic engineer, also said the narrower driveway would act as a traffic calmer, keeping vehicle speed down, and added that the impact of traffic from residents of the apartments would be negligible.