Fairfield selectmen approve Quincy Street property purchase
FAIRFIELD — Keeping Quincy Street affordable has come a step closer to reality.
The Board of Selectmen on Monday unanimously voted to buy a house at 350 Quincy St. for $295,000 to preserve the property for affordable housing.
After speaking with Mark Barnhart, the town’s director of community and economic development, “I understand why we would want to preserve this particular property,” said Selectman Tom Flynn, who asked for more time to consider the agreement in a meeting last week. “This just came on the market within the last couple of months, and really what the goal here (is)... is to preserve our options going forward.”
Barnhart said the town wants to purchase the property, and possibly surrounding lots that also used to be part of the site, to maintain and redevelop the units there and ensure their long-term use as affordable housing.
“There’s an opportunity to, perhaps, create additional housing units here through a redevelopment plan,” he told the selectmen earlier this month. “So, this would be the initial step. The idea, the intent, would be to purchase additional properties contiguous to this lot, working with willing sellers, aggregate those parcels and redevelop the site.”
The agreement now requires a report from the Town Plan and Zoning Commission and approval from the Representative Town Meeting.
In a meeting Sept. 14, Barnhart said the property was once part of a U.S. Navy site purchased by the town and subdivided into individual building lots. When the town sold the property, he said, it mandated that any buildings on the property be affordable housing. The mandate included a right of first refusal to repurchase if the owner was looking to sell.
Barnhart said the goal of a larger project would be to demolish the existing units and build ones that are more energy efficient and flood resistant. He said the town worked with a collection of homeowners and non-profit developers in a similar process a few years ago, but was not able to secure financing for the project.
After that, the town created a housing trust fund, Barnhart said. If redevelopment is not possible, he said, the exit strategy would be to sell the property for the purchasing price while keeping the affordable mandate in place.
In Monday’s meeting, Flynn noted he is in favor of reaching the affordable housing threshold set by the state as quickly as possible in order to end a period of 8-30g being “used against the town and its neighborhood.”
A state regulation, 8-30g allows developers to ignore zoning restrictions if their application has an affordable component.
While he approved of the agreement, Flynn said he would also like regular updates and reports on the property, as well as more information on next steps from the administration and the Affordable Housing Committee.
“I don’t want to own that property in the mid to long term,” he said. “I want to preserve it in the short-term and move it back into... private hands to preserve and, perhaps, expand affordable housing in the area. As long as it’s appropriate in that area.”
After the vote, Barnhart said would be happy to provide updates to the board and any other organization, also noting the Affordable Housing Committee typically meets on the third Wednesday of each month. He said he shares Flynn’s desire to not own the property long-term.
“I basically indicated to him in our conversation that we wanted to have a period of time in which to explore those options, but it was not an indefinite arrangement,” he said. “I agree with him in totality.”