State Housing Department: No One Told Moynihan Moratorium Application Would Be Approved

State officials deny that New Canaan had been “led to believe” its application for four years of relief from a widely discussed affordable housing law would be approved, as First Selectman Kevin Moynihan recently asserted. Moynihan had said during the Oct. 4 Board of Selectmen meeting that “we expect to get our moratorium on November 1st.” 

He added, “We’ve been told by—led to believe, I would say—by the Housing Department that we are going to get our moratorium. If that does not occur then that will be ‘all bets off’ in terms of where we are.”

The Connecticut Department of Housing denied the application about two weeks later. Yet while the matter had been pending, the land use attorney representing a local developer in applying for an affordable housing project at Weed and Elm Streets, Tim Hollister, asked the DOH to explain Moynihan’s comments.  

“I recognize that the Department has no obligation to respond to such a request, but given the alleged circumstance – the First Selectman of a municipality with a pending moratorium application asserting that ‘the Department’ in a private conversation led him and Town to believe that the application will be approved, over the objections filed – is simply contrary to how this public process should proceed,” Hollister said in an Oct. 18 email obtained by NewCanaanite.com. “If the First Selectman is misstating what he was told, then the Department should explain that.

Attorney: Moynihan Made ‘Several Inaccurate Comments’ During Affordable Housing Discussion

An attorney for a developer seeking to build at least two multifamily projects in New Canaan under the state’s affordable housing law is calling out the town’s highest elected official for inaccurate statements made during a recent public meeting. First Selectman Kevin Moynihan told members of New Canaan’s legislative body last month that “it came as a great surprise” in May that “the rules had changed” with respect to how the state counts affordable units in towns that are seeking to apply for relief from a law widely known by its statute number, 8-30g. Yet “[t]he -30g moratorium rules with regard to deductions of points for units that have been demolished (a requirement overlooked in the Town’s recent application) did not ‘change recently,’ ” attorney Tim Hollister noted in a July 6 letter sent to Moynihan via an email to town employee Tucker Murphy, as well as to the full Town Council. 

“The rules were adopted by the General Assembly in 2000, in Public Act 00- 206,” Hollister noted. “The rules have not changed since then. The Department of Housing enforced these rules in 2019 with respect to Westport’s moratorium application, but DOH did not change the rules.”

The letter, obtained by NewCanaanite.com which made a public records request for it, was sent to town officials in response to several representations that Moynihan made before the Town Council during its June 15 meeting.

Affordable Housing: Town Council Discusses New Canaan’s Handling of Moratorium Application 

New Canaan’s legislative body last week called for the town to consider getting a second legal opinion on whether the municipality should move forward now with an application to the state for relief from a widely discussed affordable housing law. First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said earlier this month that, following discussions with the Connecticut Department of Housing, the town will wait until the second phase of the Canaan Parish is completed to apply for a four-year “moratorium” from the state law known by its statute number, 8-30g. Towns like New Canaan, where less than 10% of all housing stock qualifies as “affordable” under the state’s definition, are susceptible to the 8-30g law. Under it, developers can use an appeal process to effectively skirt local zoning regulations when applying for multi-family housing project where at least 30% of all units are rented at affordable rates. 

The town has received two such applications from local developer Arnold Karp, at Weed and Elm Streets, and on Main Street. Moynihan has said that, based on discussions with the state, the town “does not currently have enough affordable housing ‘points’ to qualify for a moratorium.” 

Specifically, the town in drawing up its application for relief—allowable under 8-30g for municipalities that create a certain number of new affordable units—had not accounted for “deductions” for pre-existing affordable housing that were demolished as part of a pan to rebuild with higher density. 

Even so, “we believe our facts are distinguishable based on the kinds of units that we have,” Moynihan told members of the Town Council at their June 15 meeting, held at Town Hall.

Moynihan: Town Cannot Apply for Affordable Housing Moratorium As Planned

After asserting for several weeks that the town was close to filing, New Canaan’s highest elected official said Tuesday that the municipality cannot apply at this time for four years of relief from a widely discussed affordable housing statute. The town did prepare its application for a four-year “moratorium” from a state law known by its statute number, 8-30g. In towns where less than 10% of all housing stock qualifies as “affordable,” under the state’s definition, the law effectively allows developers to 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. Yet during a required public comment period on the new moratorium application, a prominent land use attorney—Tim Hollister, from a firm representing a local developer in two 8-30g applications, at Weed and Elm Streets, and on Main Street—said the town’s application was incomplete and would not be approved.