Fairfield residents fight affordable housing proposal
FAIRFIELD — A proposed affordable housing complex at 980 High St. has drawn the attention of several neighbors and residents in the area who are seeking ways to either minimize the size of the development or halt it completely.
Those efforts include a GoFundMe that was created Jan. 16 this year and has raised $9,885 from 72 listed donors as of early Thursday afternoon.
“A development of this magnitude — within a very limited space — will cause disruption to the vast wildlife in the area and deteriorate our family neighborhoods on so many levels,” the fundraiser reads. “Hopefully we can come together and stop this proposed rezoning and development.”
According to property records, the Fairfield Housing Corporation — not a town entity — bought the 980 High Street property for $2.1 million Dec. 14 of last year. The developer and its representatives have met with neighbors since the beginning of the year.
There have already been two meetings regarding this project: a public information meeting that drew over 100 people and another with the Affordable Housing Committee, which published its affordable housing plan in November 2014.
Carol Martin, executive director of the Fairfield Housing Authority, has confirmed that though final plans are still in the works, the project would house a total of 40 units across five buildings on the High Street property. These include 6 three-bedroom units, 16 two-bedroom units and 18 one-bedroom units.
Thirty-two of the 40 units, according to Martin, would be affordable units — rented at a certain percentage bracket of the town’s median income — while the other eight would be at market rate.
In previous reporting, Martin has said that the Fairfield Housing Corporation wants to be “good neighbors and mission-driven” and is filling a spot in the market that hasn’t been filled by the private sector.
Opponents and critics of the affordable housing project have argued that the project would impact their property values and alter the historic character of the town, particularly in a neighborhood that is replete with single-family housing.
Residents have taken to the previous meetings but also social media to voice their concerns.
Preserve Fairfield and Save Fairfield’s Historic Judd Estate are two groups, each with hundreds of members, that aim to keep residents apprised of the fundraising efforts and the like.
Dom DaFonte, the administrator of the Preserve Fairfield Facebook group and who lives two miles away from High Street, said he moved from Stamford to Fairfield because he liked the quaint nature of the place.
“I moved here to be in a nice quiet town,” DaFonte, who originally hails from Waterbury and lived in rentals in his youth with a single mother, said. “I have an appreciation for affordable housing and also an appreciation for having nice single-family neighborhoods.”
With the town’s Transit Oriented Development plan in the works, DaFonte said he thinks affordable housing should be closer to downtown and transportation lines.
“Can the town do something to incentivize affordable housing in our commercial areas?,” DaFonte said, referring that affordable housing residents would benefit more from closer proximity to stores and transportation.
Fairfield falls short from the state statutes that aim to push town’s affordable housing stock to at least 10 percent of the total housing units. When this is the case, developers can file an 8-30g application that can skirt local laws and regulations and be denied only on traffic, safety or environmental grounds.
Towns can apply for an affordable housing moratorium period of four years when they show the state that they’re taking the steps toward the state-mandated minimum of affordable housing units; Fairfield currently has 334 units and would need around 433 to apply for a moratorium, according to Office of Community and Economic Development Director Mark Barnhart
According to a post by Dom DaFonte on Preserve Fairfield, there is “an attorney currently willing to work with the group, however, we need to raise at least $10,000 to retain their services, and will need at least $40,000 to properly fight to save his home.”
The money would go to legal fees, traffic studies, soil studies and other items deemed necessary to preserve the house.
The developer meets next with the Conservation Commission, a body that will review the project’s effects on natural resources, July 10 in a public hearing.
The corporation would next meet with the Planning and Zoning Commission, once it submits its application regarding building and schematics, for review.