Fairfield considers affordable housing project for Castle Ave

A 43-unit apartment proposed for 83 Castle Ave.

A 43-unit apartment proposed for 83 Castle Ave.

Josh LaBella / Hearst Connecticut Media

FAIRFIELD — Neighbors are taking issue with the scale of a proposed apartment building, with some saying the development could cause safety problems.

“This is a very small piece of property,” Trisha Pytko, who lives across the street from the site, said at a meeting Tuesday. “Drive by the property and imagine how they’re going to put 43 units on this postage stamp of a property.”

Berwick Associates LLC, who is developing the project, is seeking a zoning compliance from the Town Plan and Zoning Commission. Berwick is looking to construct a four-story, 45-foot structure with 13 studios, 18 one-bedroom and 12 two-bedrooms units.

The proposal also calls for 57 parking spaces, most of which would be under the building. The developer is planning to set 30 percent of the units aside as affordable.

The application has been made under 8-30g, a state statute that allows developers to bypass municipal laws and regulations as long as a certain percentage of the project is affordable housing. Local boards must prove the project presents serious enough health or safety risks that outweigh the need for affordable housing there.

“This affordable housing is necessary and essential to the town,” Raymond Rizio said.

Rizio, the developer’s attorney, said the brick veneer building would have an entrance on Berwick Avenue. He said there is only one house that borders the project.

“The balance is either street side or parking lot for the 500 Kings Highway commercial district,” he said.

Rizio said the parking plans for the development exceed one spot-per-bedroom, calling it “unprecedented in most of the affordable applications” the commission gets. He later noted the 25,000-square-foot site was home to single-family houses decades ago, but is now zoned as multifamily residential and is a block away from the Kings Highway business corridor.

“We haven’t plopped something in the middle of a residential neighborhood,” he said.

Project engineer Russ Waldo said the building would have underground stormwater units and a rain garden. Rizio later said the proposed drainage system covers up to 100-year storm events.

The proposal is expected to generate approximately 500 car trips per day, with 39 during the morning peak and 50 during the afternoon peak, according to traffic engineer Scott Hesketh, who went on to say the development would have a minimal impact on the area. He noted the developer does intend to ask the police commission to approve installing stop signs on Castle and Berwick avenues, but said there would not be a safety hazard if they were not.

Calling the plan “absurd,” Pytko brought up concerns with the proposal’s potential impact on street parking, traffic and flooding.

Pytko said cars park on both sides of the road, effectively making it a single lane. She said her daughter’s school bus stops right where the developer plans to put the driveway.

“It is absolutely impossible to see either way if you’re coming out my driveway or, now what would be theirs,” Pytko said, adding she wrote to the Fairfield Police Department asking for a traffic study to be conducted. “It’s a safety hazard.”

As a former Board of Education member, Pytko also said she was concerned about how the development could impact possible redistricting.

“Our school districts cannot handle this overflow,” she said.

Gloria Perez, who lives on Berwick Avenue next to the property, said the height of the project is “too much.” She echoed Pytko’s concerns about how the development could impact traffic and parking.

“This definitely needs to be scaled down a lot,” she said.

Carole Hull, who lives near the site, said there is no room on the property for anything of that size. She said the area already deals with flooding issues.

“I’m not saying don’t build anything, and I have nothing against building, but this is just too big for the area,” she said. “It’s not safe. Please, reconsider the size of this.”

joshua.labella@hearstmediact.com