P&Z: Affordable housing plan proposed

The developer who last year was unsuccessful in his attempt to develop 20 detached housing units on land behind the Huntington Congregational Church said plans have now been filed for an affordable housing development on the same property.
John Guedes, a Shelton resident and president/CEO of Primrose Development LLC, told the Shelton Herald Friday, Feb. 22, that the application and plans for the project filed under 8-30g of the state statutes — an 84-unit development on 6.5 acres on what is now Huntington Congregational Church-owned land — have been submitted to the town planner. The plans, submitted through Mutual Housing, now go for a "tech review," said Guedes, which occurs prior to formal submission to the Planning & Zoning Commission.
Interim P&Z Administrator Ken Nappi acknowledged Tuesday that plans had been submitted for an affordable housing development, but no formal application has been filed with the Planning & Zoning Commission.
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.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Guedes, an architect and builder best known for pursuing residential projects on Canal Street downtown, about this latest filing. “Hopefully, this will get the (Planning & Zoning) Commission to realize that the best option here is low-density housing. 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’ 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.
Guedes told the Shelton Herald 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.
“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.”
Guedes said that the church “needs to sell and try to maximize its profit,” so one way or another the land will be sold.
Mayor Mark Lauretti said he was disappointed with the affordable housing filing but acknowledges that this was a possibility once the commission denied Guedes’ original plan. Lauretti said that the commission failed to use “good, rational judgment” in its denial.
Guedes said the 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.