Fairfield residents: Proposed 5-story apartment complex ‘detrimental’ to ‘safety and well-being’
FAIRFIELD — More than 70 people tuned in to a Plan and Zoning Commission meeting where many spoke in opposition to a proposed affordable housing apartment complex near the Old Town Hall.
“I’m just concerned with the size of the proposed building,” said Alden Stevens, whose home neighbors the property. “I recognize that Fairfield needs affordable housing, and I think that that could be accomplished with a building that has fewer than 40 units and still adheres to the 30 percent rule for affordable housing.”
The Tuesday night meeting, held through Webex, saw residents speak out against the complex — which would stand next to a historic district.
The proposal would see a 40-unit development on 131 Beach Road — a .65 acre lot that currently hosts a Masonic temple. Christopher Smith, the attorney for the developer, said 12 units would be affordable housing.
Smith said the development was filed under the state’s affordable housing statute. A state regulation, 8-30g allows developers of affordable housing to bypass municipal laws and regulations in order to get such housing into communities with fewer affordable units than the state recommends — about 10 percent in Fairfield. Smith said 2.43 percent of the town’s housing was considered affordable in 2019.
But there is broad opposition to the proposal, and a petition created by the Old Post Road Area Association requesting the developer scale down the project had more than 1,400 signatures as of Friday morning. There have also been letters of opposition submitted to Hearst Connecticut Media publications.
The neighborhood association and a private home owner from the Old Post Road have each hired a lawyer to represent them in their opposition to the development.
In addition to the scale of the project, residents have said they are concerned about the impact the development would have on traffic, if approved. Michael Galante, who conducted the traffic study for the developer, said the complex would generate an estimated 218 car trips in or out of the property on an average weekday.
The study, conducted in January, showed Beach Road east of the Post Road to have a combined total of 1,466 vehicles traveling on it during peak morning and afternoon hours. It also showed the road has had a total of five accidents in the past three years.
“This traffic added to the roadway system really has an ... insignificant impact on roads and operational characteristics of intersections,” Galante said.
During the public hearing, OPRAA President Henry Backe read a letter to the commission in which he voiced the organization’s concerns with the proposed development.
“The impact of 100-plus additional people living on this half acre lot would have significant negative impact on the traffic and safety in what is already a very busy neighborhood,” Backe said, adding the development as proposed may be the most densely populated dwelling per acre in the town.
Backe also noted that the development would require six parking spaces currently on the street be removed to provide adequate sight lines for the exit of the complex. He said the parking spots are frequently used by people going to church, classes and events on the town green. Backe also took issue with how the development would contrast the surrounding homes.
“The homes in this neighborhood are single-family structures on the average lot size of .75 acres (with) three to six occupants,” he said. “The building as proposed would tower over and encroach on the property lines of abutting historic and non-historic homes, and adversely affect their open space, wind flow and sun exposure.”
Backe said OPRAA understands the need for affordable housing in Fairfield, and supports the intent of 8-30g. But, he alleged, the statute has been used by predatory developers who include the minimum affordable housing requirement, while “reaping the benefits” of 8-30g to bypass local zoning regulation, building height limits, distance from other properties and roads, and density regulations — to the detriment of neighborhood property values.
“To bypass and ignore such safe regulations would detrimental to the safety and well-being of this residential neighborhood,” Backe said.