Town officials say they’re planning next week to file an application with the state to secure four years of relief from a widely discussed statute that opens the door to more affordable housing developments in New Canaan.
The town’s voluminous Application for State Certificate of Affordable Housing Completion is expected to go to the Connecticut Department of Housing April 28, according to Tucker Murphy, administrative officer in the first selectman’s office.
The application has been in the Town Clerk’s office for public view since April 7, Murphy said during Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting.
“It has to sit there for 20 days for the public to be able to come in and review it,” Murphy said during the meeting, held at Town Hall and via videoconference. “On April 28th it will then be submitted to the state, providing there’s no petition or anything filed from any residents.”
She spoke in response to Selectman Kathleen Corbet, who raised questions about the timing of the application as the Board approved legal fees incurred by the town that are related to an application for an affordable housing complex at Weed and Elm Streets.
Once the town submits its application to the state, the commissioner of housing in Hartford has 90 days to make a decision on it, under the law (see section 8(k)(4)(B) here).
Under section 8-30g of the state statutes, developers seeking to create affordable developments in towns such as New Canaan that do not meet a standard whereby 10% of all housing stock qualifies as affordable, can appeal a local Planning & Zoning Commission’s denial of such developments to the state, effectively skirting local regulations.
The town had secured four years of relief from such applications by creating a sufficient number of affordable units with the denser redevelopment of the complex at Mill Pond in 2017, and had hoped to chain a second “moratorium” from the state law by similarly redeveloping the Canaan Parish property at Route 123 and Lakeview Avenue.
Yet the Canaan Parish project was delayed in early-2019 by financing problems, and then again by the pandemic.
According to the legal bill approved this week by Corbet and Selectman Nick Williams, the town spent more than $22,000 in legal fees in March on the 751 Weed St. application, bringing the year-to-date total to more than $33,000. The town in December hired a consultant to help put the application for a moratorium together, and has spent $3,701 on that, according to the April 5 bill from Berchem Moses PC, the town attorney’s firm in Westport.
A group of residents on the other side of New Canaan, saying the same developer is planning an affordable housing complex on a Hill Street property that backs up to Brushy Ridge, recently petitioned the town to revoke a permit issued four years ago for a wider driveway that would be needed for such a development possible. The town rejected that petition this month.
The owner of the properties at Weed and Elm, and 17-23 Hill St., Arnold Karp, also owns the former Red Cross building on Main Street downtown.
After an initial filing in February, the application for the affordable housing development at Weed and Elm was withdrawn and then re-filed April 5. A side-by-side comparison of the original and amended applications—both viewable on the town website—shows that a property transfer of 751 Weed St., from a lawyer who held the property as trustee to a limited liability company, had never been recorded in the Town Clerk’s office. As a result, the application from February technically hadn’t been filed by the property’s owner. The transfer was recorded with the town March 30, tax records show.