Fairfield P&Z denies application for proposed Beacon View apartment complex
FAIRFIELD — The town Plan and Zoning Commission has denied the application for a controversial affordable housing complex in part because it could pose a traffic hazard.
The decision came after debate on traffic-related danger to drivers and pedestrians. Members said traffic congestion and other hazards were a great enough threat to the public that it could be proven in court if the developers contested the denial.
Ilhami Palik, the owner of the company that planned to develop the apartments on Beacon View Drive, did not mince his words when it was clear which way the votes were going to fall.
“I think you are a coward,” Palik said from the audience after Chairman Mathew Wagner explained the commission’s reasoning.
Palik is the owner of John and Dilan LLC, which planned to develop a four story, 20-unit apartment building on 15-21 Beacon View Drive. The land the company purchased amounted to less than an acre.
The plan for the development specified there would be 18 one-bedroom apartments and two studios. Six of the apartments in the building would be reserved as affordable housing.
The company filed the application under 8-30g, a state law which allows developers to largely ignore municipal laws and zoning regulations when building affordable housing. The statue can only be used in towns where less than 10 percent of housing is affordable.
To deny an application, a town body must be able to prove that the development will negatively impact the health and safety of the public.
According to the commission, there is enough evidence in the public record to show, and prove in court if necessary, that the complex would impact traffic in such a way that it would be a danger to the public.
The issue came down to sight lines and differing opinions from the town and the developer on how far a driver can see when driving out of the proposed complex. Both parties conducted surveys on the road to determine what was needed to ensure safety.
A study by the police department said the required sight line would be 314 feet while John Fallon, lawyer for John and Dilan LLC, said their study had shown only 291 feet was needed. Fallon said the data from the two studies should be averaged, which would result in a necessary sight line of 301 feet.
The commission scrutinized the John and Dilan LLC study because of the sample size compared with that of the police study.
The police traffic study took place over five days and observed 3,347 travel on the road while the study by John and Dilan LLC’s traffic expert, Michael Galante of Frederick P. Clark Associates, Inc., observed 40 cars over the course of two hours.
But the argument became moot when, during the public hearing, a Beacon View Drive resident said that if he and his tenants were parked in his driveway, the viewable distance was shortened to 165 feet.
“Even if we were to use the standard that was most favorable to the applicant, we would still have the problem of the car in the driveway blocking (the sight line),” said commissioner Thomas Noonan.
In the Feb. 25 public hearing, Fallon had made the argument that if the neighbor was blocking the sight line by the way he and his tenants parked, they were parking in his driveway illegally.
Wagner, and much of the audience, appeared shocked by his response. Wagner said in Tuesday’s meeting that he did research about the validity of that argument and came up with nothing. There is no way for the town to enforce such a rule.
“I’ve concluded that the town has no duty to prevent a car parking in a driveway,” Wagner said, adding the town could not enforce it either. He said the site simply was not the right place for the development.
Other commissioners echoed the sentiment that the risk of car accidents would be too great if the developers were allowed to proceed with the project.
The commission voted unanimously to deny to the application. A representative for John and Dilan LLC said they had to consult their lawyer about whether to appeal.