Affordable housing plan goes to P&Z Tuesday

Plans for affordable housing development on land behind the Huntington Congregational Church will go before the Planning & Zoning Commission Tuesday. 

John Guedes, a Shelton resident and president/CEO of Primrose Development, LLC, filed the plans, under section 8-30g of the state statutes, for the 84-unit development on 6.5 acres on what is now Huntington Congregational Church-owned land. 

The Planning & Zoning Commission meeting is at 7 p.m. in the City Hall auditorium. 

The 8-30g statute gives developers of affordable housing projects that meet state criteria a means of circumventing most zoning rules, such as density regulations, setback distances and building heights. Interim P&Z Administrator Ken Nappi told the Shelton Herald Friday that this is the first such for-profit affordable housing application, filed under this state statute, during his time. 

Guedes told the Herald, during an interview in February about the affordable housing application, that this latest plan was filed under the state's 8-30g statute, which allows greater latitude for developers with such plans if the community in question does not meet the state requirement for the number of affordable units. Guedes said that the city does not meet that threshold. 

"I want the quality of life in the center to be maintained, and I think that the original plan did that," said Guedes. "I'm hopeful that level heads prevail here, and we can negotiate a settlement, even if I give up a couple homes in the process. I don't want a high-density development here, but at the same time, you can't stop progress."

This is the latest twist for this property. Guedes' original plan — which was before the Planning & Zoning Commission last year  called for 20 detached housing units, named Huntington Village, on a wooded tract off Ripton Road, with an entrance between Centerview Drive and Huntington Congregational's rear parking lot entrance. To complete the project, Guedes had sought to create a Planned Development District (PDD) on the property which was zoned for one-acre and half-acre lots.

The Huntington Village development would have had two private cul-de-sacs, and 1.4 acres  or 23% of the overall site  would have been set aside as open space. Homes would have three bedrooms, two-car garages in most cases, and be connected to city sewers and public water. The detached single-family homes would be part of a condominium association, and the condo owners would not own individual lots.

The plans caused quite an uproar, with hundreds of people attending a public hearing on the application last summer at Shelton Intermediate School. In the end, the Planning & Zoning Commission denied the application, and Guedes' legal appeal of that decision is presently winding through the court system. 

"It's unfortunate," said Guedes, an architect and builder best known for pursuing residential projects on Canal Street downtown, about this latest filing during an interview with the Herald in February when news of this plan first broke. 

"Hopefully, this will get the (Planning & Zoning) Commission to realize that the best option here is low-density housing,” added Guedes at the time. “This has never been about the dollars. This was always about doing something that will fit in with Huntington Center. But, in the end, something will be done with this property."

Guedes told the Herald in February that the affordable housing application would be pulled if a settlement can be reached on the legal appeal  with the developer's ultimate hope being that he can build his low-density project, even if he agrees to reduce the amount by a couple of homes. He said, at present, no settlement meetings have been held.

Guedes said that the church "needs to sell and try to maximize its profit," so one way or another the land will be sold.