Neighbors fault plan to rebuild Pine Tree housing complex
While it didn't spark as much opposition as other affordable housing proposals proposed recently in town, neighbors on Tuesday nonetheless urged the Town Plan and Zoning Commission to deny the Fairfield Housing Authority's application to tear down and rebuild the Pine Tree housing complex.
The public hearing on the application was closed, but no decision was made by the commission.
Under the proposal, the existing 11 one-story buildings that house 38 apartments for seniors, would be torn down and replaced with nine buildings with 50 apartments. The buildings, with the exception of the office/community building, would be two stories, with a mix of one- and two-bedroom units. The Pine Tree units currently are age-restricted, but the new apartments -- all of which would comply with affordable-income guidelines -- would no longer be limited to the elderly or disabled.
Current residents would all be guaranteed an apartment in the new complex, Executive Director Carol Martin explained, and the 109 on the waiting list would likely be grandfathered. The new units would be built in two phases, with about half the residents moved into other rental housing in town while their buildings are demolished and rebuilt. The remaining tenants would be moved into the new units when they are completed, and then their units would be demolished and rebuilt. At that point, any tenants who had been relocated would be moved back to Pine Tree.
Martin said those tenants who are moved will continue to pay the same rent to the housing authority, with any difference in rent and the relocation costs paid out of the project's financing.
Architect Paul Bailey said the two smaller buildings, with four units each, would face the street. "From the street, they look like small houses," he said, "which is the idea." There will also be three buildings with six units and three buildings with eight units. Each unit will have a small porch.
The ninth building would house a community room and FHA office. There will be 62 parking spaces.
"We are very concerned about living in a fishbowl," said Fieldcrest Road resident Jennifer Bouchard. She said her home is one story, and the new two-story Pine Tree buildings would be an invasion of neighbors' privacy with "people will be staring down at your yard."
"Our other concern is the diversification of ages," Bouchard said. The new two-bedroom units would be located on the second floor of the buildings. "We are concerned if young families are moving in and living on a second floor," she said, making the complex noisier.
But some current Pine Tree residents pointed out that they are now surrounded by two-story homes.
"They look down into my yard," said Susan Whitehead. She also said the way Pine Tree is set up now, parking is not close to her front door, necessitating several trips to and from the car with groceries.
And Whitehead said, the existing Pine Tree units, built in the 1960s, do not have washers and dryers. Instead, she said, tenants must make multiple trips to the two washers and two dryers in the community room.
Neighbors and several TPZ members raised concerns over whether there will be enough on-site parking after the reconstruction. There will be 1.25 spaces provided per unit under the plan.
Whitehead said the parking lot is never more than one-third full because many of the residents do not drive.
"It's more about the nature of the people that will be taking over the units," said Candlewood Road resident Christine Amani. "I don't know if there are guidelines on how many people can go into these units."
The proposal received the backing of the town's Affordable Housing Committee, and Economic Development Director Mark Barnhart said all 50 units would be counted toward earning the town a moratorium from 8-30(g), the state statute that allows private developers to increase density of development plans in exchange for setting aside 30 percent of units as "affordable."
Jan Klinko said she came to the hearing to speak on behalf of her 90-year-old mother, who lives next door to the Pine Tree complex.
"She's very distraught about news of this development and placement of this building next to our property," Klinko said, citing concerns about the 15-foot setback and the loss of the green space that is currently part of Pine Tree.
"Obviously, this development's use is gong to be changed," Klinko said. "It's a little scary to be wondering what's going on over there."
Other neighbors told the commission that Beaconview Road, just around the corner, already has cars parked on both sides of the street, making it difficult for standard-size cars, not to mention emergency vehicles, to pass through.
The applicant, however, contends there is plenty of on-site parking for tenants and guests.
"The cars on Beaconview have been there, it's not from Pine Tree Lane," said Pine Tree resident Margaret Hubert. "I don't see why they're complaining so much."