TPZ rejects Chatham re-subdivision; developer says 'affordable housing' an option
Updated 12:47 pm, Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Stratfield neighborhood residents pleased by the Town Plan and Zoning Commission's rejection Tuesday night of a controversial development on Chatham Road may have another battle ahead.
Arnold M. Karp, who wants to develop the vacant property at 50/92 Chatham Road, said he may instead propose an affordable housing development on the site, which is just under an acre.
Karp, who commented after the TPZ voted 7-0 to deny his proposed re-subdivision, said he and Jay Borkowski, his partner, would either modify the rejected application but still propose three houses; challenge the commission's denial in Bridgeport Superior Court, or file an application that calls for an affordable housing development much denser than the three single-family houses rejected by the panel during its meeting in McKinley School.
"It will be a lot more than three," Karp said of the number of units he and Borkowski might propose in an affordable housing development, adding that Fairfield is "woefully under" the 10 percent standard inventory that the state wants communities to offer in terms of "affordable" housing.
"The neighbors have gotten what they wished for. That might not have been the most advantageous for them long-term," Karp said. "We're going to look at all three options, and all three are on the table as far as I'm concerned."
The property is now clear after the home that previously stood there was demolished after it was damaged last year in an arson. It was one of several houses burned in a series of fires set in town by now-convicted arsonist Christopher Message, who has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.
The lot was originally three separate building lots, and the applicant was seeking to re-subdivide the single lot close to the original property lines.
Andrew Deck, of Chatham Road, a neighbor who had opposed construction of the three houses, said he and other opponents were pleased the commission's vote was unanimous. "We feel they made the right decision. We feel we brought our case and were heard," he said.
Camy Deck, Andrew's wife, said opponents submitted 100 signatures on petitions against the proposed three houses, and the neighbors' concerns included the potential for more traffic and flooding due to the loss of water absorbing-ground and the belief that the proposed houses would not be in character with the neighborhood.
Commission members also were concerned about the potential for more flooding and said the "sight distance" from one of the proposed driveways did not meet regulations, meaning a motorist leaving the proposed driveway could not see approaching traffic from a safe distance.
TPZ member Douglas Soutar said the town standard for sight lines for a car traveling 25 mph was 225 feet, while the sight line for one of the proposed driveways was about 130 feet. "I don't think Lot 1 can qualify as a buildable lot, and therefore the application should be denied," he said.
TPZ member Sally Parker said she drove to the property on Friday, during a significant rainstorm, and found "a lot of water flow coming into the junction of Chatham and Random Road."
Patricia Jacobson, a TPZ member, said she also drove to the site Friday and found it to be "very dangerous."
Seth Baratz, the TPZ's vice chairman, said he thought drainage concerns raised by neighbors were "very credible." "I understand their fears. I would share them if I were them," Baratz said, adding that he did not get the opportunity to question town engineers about the stormwater management system proposed by Karp and Borkowski.
Baratz also shared Soutar's concern about sight lines. "The applicant has never said they have more than 130 feet sight distance," Baratz said. "Sight distances are a valid reason for denial. Safe ingress and egress to a property need to be provided, and they're not."
TPZ member Gerald Alessi said he didn't think the proposed development would mesh well with the character of the neighborhood and surrounding area.
Karp said the proposed houses were not as large as they could have been under town zoning regulations and that town engineers had approved the proposed drainage system. He said if he and Borkowski decide to submit a revised application, it was doubtful the number of proposed houses would be reduced, though the driveways may be reconfigured.
"We could come back with three and just move the driveways," Karp said.
Before TPZ members voted, they held a brief hearing to allow neighbors to comment on grading and contour plans submitted two weeks ago by James Walsh, the lawyer representing Karp and Borkowski. No one from the public chose to speak.
Walsh told the TPZ said the proposed development conformed to with all of the town's subdivision regulations.