FAIRFIELD — A controversial proposal for a housing development took center stage at a Plan and Zoning Commission meeting Tuesday.

According to the attorney for the applicant, 131 Beach Road LLC, the proposal would see a 40-unit development on 131 Beach Road — a .65 acre lot that currently hosts a Masonic temple. Attorney Christopher Smith also said 12 units would be affordable housing.

But residents in the neighborhood began organizing to prevent the approval of the development before the meeting. A petition created by resident Walter Shaw opposing the development had 500 signatories as of Wednesday night.

In the description, Shaw said the petition was an effort to maintain the historic character and scale of the neighborhood. Shaw pointed to the size of the project — a five-story, 60-foot high building in the area of the old town hall, according to the developer’s application.

Smith said the development was filed under the state’s affordable housing statute (8-30g). 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.

Regarding the affordability plan, Smith said six of the one and two bedroom apartments would be offered to people earning equal to or less than 80 percent of the median income. He said the other six affordable units would be offered to people making equal to or less than 60 percent of the median income.

Shaw said in the petition that the Old Post Road Area Association — a neighborhood group founded in 1951 to protect the historic character of the area — understands the need for affordable housing in Fairfield. But Shaw contends the developer is using 8-30g to build “the largest building possible in a neighborhood most Fairfield residents consider sacred.”

“A five-story Apartment complex is simply incongruous to this neighborhood,” the petition reads, adding that the building would tower above all others and be in stark contrast to the Old Town Hall.

Shaw also brought up possible traffic and parking issue that the development could create. Shaw did not respond to a request for comment.

Alexis Harrison, a Fairfield resident operating the Connecticut Needs 8-30g Reform Facebook page, also said she understands the need for more affordable housing in Fairfield. She said she believes there are significant issues with the height and density of the project.

Harrison said she was also concerned about the traffic safety issues the development could generate, adding that the area is already congested.

“Beach Road alone has multiple medical buildings, a church, social club, a funeral home and other businesses,” Harrison said. “We have to realize that not every site will accommodate every development. I would hope the developer, Glen Tatangelo, the owner of 131 Beach Road, would be agreeable to scale back the project in a way that addresses the concerns of the community and neighbors.”

In the public hearing, Smith and experts hired by the developer to work on the project presented their plans to the commission. Members asked about aspects of the building, including parking, drainage, traffic, and the amount of room for delivery and emergency vehicles.

The presentation did not finish by the end of the meeting. Chairman Matthew Wagner said rest of the hearing, including public comment, would be adjourned until the commission’s Sept. 15 meeting.