First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said this week that state officials have led the town to believe it will receive four years of relief from a widely discussed affordable housing law.
After saying in June that New Canaan did not qualify for a moratorium, Moynihan said in late July that the town had, in fact, filed its application for four years of relief from state statute 8-30g, kickstarting a 90-day statutory review period.
Under the statute, in towns where less than 10% of all housing stock qualifies as “affordable,” by the state’s definition, developers can skirt local planning decisions in projects that set aside a certain percentage of units at below-market rates. The town had qualified for one such moratorium in 2017, with the denser redevelopment of New Canaan Housing Authority-owned apartments Millport Avenue, and hoped to qualify for another through the redevelopment of the Canaan Parish complex at Lakeview Avenue and Route 123, which was partially completed last October.
During Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, Moynihan said, “We expect to get our moratorium on November first. I think that that is the end of the 90-day period.”
“We’ve been told by—led to believe, I would say—by the Housing Department that we are going to get our moratorium,” Moynihan added at the meeting, held at Town Hall and via videoconference. “If that does not occur then that will be ‘all bets off’ in terms of where we are.”
The comments came during a portion of the meeting set aside for general matters before the town. Selectman Kathleen Corbet said officials are getting “lots of emails” about affordable housing in New Canaan and the creation of a prospective “affordable housing committee.”
“And my position on that is to move forward,” Corbet said.
Moynihan responded that the Planning & Zoning Commission first must issue its formal decisions on 8-30g applications before the town.
“We have to know where we’re going with the current proposals before we can have a strategy for the next step,” Moynihan said. He added that if the town does not earn the moratorium, “that will be a different process for a committee.”
Currently, there are three 8-30g affordable housing applications before P&Z—at Weed and Elm Streets (102 units), at the former Red Cross building on Main Street (20 units), and on Hill Street below Brushy Ridge Road (93 units).
Corbet noted that a committee could respond in writing to some of the objections filed to the town’s affordable housing application.
When Moynihan asked who had filed objections, Corbet noted attorney Tim Hollister, who is representing property owner and developer Arnold Karp in the 8-30g project at Weed and Elm.
“And maybe there have been others I am not aware of,” Corbet said.
In fact, Hollister is not the only individual who has filed objections to the town’s application. In an Aug. 31 letter, a prominent Connecticut attorney specializing in housing law, Raphael L. Podolsky of New Britain-based Connecticut Legal Services, also filed objections.
“What sort of response is the town taking or a committee in terms of how to respond to some of the objections?” Corbet said.
Moynihan responded that the state led the town to believe the application would be approved.
Selectman Nick Williams asked Moynihan whether he supported forming an affordable housing committee. The first selectman responded yes, adding, “We’re talking about a standing committee once we know where the lay of the land is with the current 8-30g proposals and our moratorium. If we don’t get the moratorium, all bets are off.”
Corbet asked why “all bets are off” if the town doesn’t earn a moratorium.
“Isn’t that even more reason for a committee to be together?”
Moynihan responded, “In my view, there’s a lot in the pipeline and I just hope Scott Hobbs hangs in there as a leader to get this done.” (He referred to the chair of the New Canaan Housing Authority.)
Williams asked whether the affordable housing committee would be created by the selectmen or another municipal body. Moynihan responded that only the Board of Selectmen can appoint a committee.