Frustrated commission once again pushes Fairfield housing vote
FAIRFIELD — With hundreds of pages of new evidence to review, the Conservation Commission was once again forced to delay a vote on the High Street affordable housing complex.
At a public hearing Wednesday, the Fairfield Housing Authority continued to make its case for receiving an inland wetlands permit to build an affordable housing complex at 980 High St.
This was the continuation of a July 7 hearing, where the Housing Authority had initially presented its experts and witnesses. While the commission had expected to vote Wednesday, the Housing Authority’s presentation of additional plans made that impossible.
Fairfield Neighbors United, an organization of High Street residents opposing the complex, has filed an intervention against the proposal. The group’s attorney, Joel Green, had intended to put up his own experts and witnesses last night, but instead, the additional evidence compelled him to push his presentation to the next meeting as well.
The commission, interveners and room packed with disgruntled residents grew visibly frustrated by the Housing Authority’s introduction of new, hundred-page-long reports into evidence.
The Authority’s attorney Bryan LeClerc explained the new reports had been written in response to comments and questions from the commission staff that had only been received last week, giving them no option but to present them on Wednesday if they wanted to defend their case against the criticism.
Commission Chair Kevin Gumpper chastised LeClerc, at one point refusing to accept a nearly 200-page report on pesticide findings at the site.
“This is just simply unfair to staff, to the commission, to the intervener, to everyone else,” Gumpper said.
After a heated exchange between Gumpper and LeClerc, the commission consented it would allow the new documents to be introduced if they pushed the vote to a Sept. 25 special meeting.
Green, too, expressed frustration with the course of the evening, lamenting the Housing Authority had misrepresented how much new information it would present that evening.
“The ‘small amount of information’ was actually a large amount of information, so I’m not inclined to proceed this evening,” Green said.
LeClerc reiterated throughout the evening that he believed the Housing Authority had been given unfair treatment due to Fairfield’s fraught relationship with affordable housing.
“The Housing Corporation feels that it’s being treated differently,” he said.
He also noted the long-windedness of his team’s evidence was necessary for the official record, especially if the Housing Authority initiates an appeals process.
“As an appeal maybe taken after either the granting or denial of the application, the Superior Court needs a full and complete record in order to make a determination in the case,” LeClerc said.
The public hearing will continue at a special meeting of the Conservation Commission on Sept. 25.