Zoners’ denial of Berwick affordable housing plan upheld
After consecutive defeats in battles over affordable housing projects, the town has prevailed over a developer in court.
The Town Plan and Zoning Commission denied an 8-30(g) application for 33 rental units on property at the end of Berwick and Fairchild avenues. Of the 33 two-bedroom units, 10 were to be set aside as “affordable” in compliance with state criteria.
The town has not fared so well in other recent challenges to TPZ denials of affordable-housing proposals. In 2012, a small affordable housing project on Campfield Drive was denied by the zoning board, but the developer won an appeal overturning that denial.
And Garden Homes Management’s complex at the end of Fairchild Avenue, across from the proposed Berwick/Fairchild complex, was also appealed by the developer. Again, the denial was overturned by the courts.
More recently, the TPZ was instructed by the court to reconsider an application for 95 units on lower Bronson Road.
“I think it was a major finding and a well-received decision,” Town Attorney Stanton Lesser said, of the Berwick Fairchild decision.
Bryan LeClerc, counsel for Berwick Fairchild, was unavailable for comment.
Hartford Superior Court Judge Edward S. Domanarski, in a decision dated Oct. 25, ruled, “The court concludes that the public health and safety issues of traffic congestion at the site clearly outweigh the need for affordable housing.”
He said the TPZ met its burden to show that the denial was necessary to “protect substantial public interest in safety.”
In its denial, the commission cited traffic congestion at the Kings Highway intersection, and the lack of secondary access to the property for emergency vehicles. The commission also claimed there was inadequate on-site parking for the proposed units, though that was not considered as a factor by Domanarski. Potential flooding in the area was also a reason given for the commission’s denial.
The court also found that “reasonable” changes to the proposed plan would not protect public health and safety issues.