Saying affordable housing projects already submitted to Planning & Zoning wouldn’t be affected by the outcome of the case, lawyers representing the town last week objected to the developer’s attempt to be named as co-defendant in a lawsuit versus the state.
The town in December sued the Connecticut Department of Housing, appealing the state’s decision last fall to deny the town’s application for a “moratorium,” or four years of relief from the state statute that facilitated the affordable housing applications. In June, the town sued again, objecting to a “declaratory ruling” from the state agency that bolstered its earlier denial.
A state Superior Court judge in July dismissed the first complaint for reasons of “subject matter jurisdiction.” The second one is still active. Last month, attorneys representing developer Arnold Karp filed a motion for four property ownership entities—namely, 751 Weed Street LLC, W.E. Partners, LLC, 51 Main Street, LLC and Hill Street-72 LLC—to become co-defendants in active lawsuit.
Under the state law known by its statute number, 8-30g, in towns where less than 10% of all housing stock qualifies as affordable (New Canaan is at 2.94%), developers who propose projects where a certain number of units are set aside to rent at affordable rates may appeal to the state after a local P&Z Commission denies their applications. New Canaan since its last moratorium lapsed in July 2021 has received three such applications, at Weed and Elm Streets (120 units), Main Street (20 units) and Hill Street (93 units). P&Z denied all of them. Those applications are now under appeal in state Superior Court. (Attorneys for the town have said in the past that it’s a “tough burden” for a municipality to win such cases.)
In their motion to intervene, Karp’s attorneys argued that the town “could seek to impose a granted moratorium at some future proceeding as to the Section 8-30g application, such as a remand from the court system,” making the developer a “necessary and indispensable party” to the appeal. In other words, the 8-30g applicant in New Canaan argued that the town could seek to dismiss the new affordable housing projects under a retroactively applied moratorium.
Yet in an objection filed Sept. 15 on behalf of the town, attorney Nicholas R. Bamonte of Westport-based Berchem Moses PC argued that “those applications and appeals will remain wholly unaffected by the outcome of this appeal … even if the disposition of this appeal results in the retroactive issuance of the Certificate/Moratorium as of that date, the Intervening Movants still would not be subject to the moratorium.”
Again, referring to the three 8-30g applications, Bamonte writes in the objection, “Those applications are grandfathered and cannot be affected by the potential issuance of a moratorium as a result of this appeal. There is no scenario under which the Intervening Movants would be prejudiced. Moreover, the fact that the Intervening Movants have denied applications and pending appeals does not automatically place them into a class that now has cause to intervene; rather, because those applications are grandfathered from a moratorium, the Intervening Movants are no different than any other property owner in Town.”
Meanwhile, as the courts work through the various appeals, things are heating up in New Canaan.
A neighbor of the project planned for Weed and Elm Streets was arrested by warrant Sept. 6 and charged with disorderly conduct after getting physical with the developer’s team as they walked a legal sewer easement adjacent to 751 Weed St.
And the town is close to appointing a new Affordable Housing Committee. During Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, Selectman Kathleen Corbet noted that two weeks prior, First Selectman Kevin Moynihan had “said ‘no more candidates’ ” for the Committee.
Yet “we did actually have one,” Corbet said.
The candidates for the Committee are “all great,” Corbet said.
“I’ve interviewed everybody who has raised their hand and I know colleagues have as well,” she said.
There are “very interested and qualified candidates,” Corbet added.
“Just from a timing perspective, just so that everybody is aware in terms of transparency, there are nine open seats,” she said. “There’s no such thing as ‘these are R seats or D seats or U seats,’ they’re all open and the ordinance does state that no more than five individuals can be of any one individual party. So we’re getting close.”
The nine-member Committee will include five members of the general public as well as representatives from the Town Council, Board of Finance, P&Z and Housing Authority. They’re all expected to be appointed by the selectmen during their Oct. 3 meeting, Corbet said.