Town Sues State Over Denial of Affordable Housing Moratorium


Changing a strategy laid out six months ago, the town on Friday sued the Connecticut Department of Housing over its denial of an application for relief from a widely discussed affordable housing law.

The agency’s denial was “fundamentally flawed because neither the law nor DOH’s own past precedent supports the interpretation now relied upon by DOH,” according to an administrative appeal filed Dec. 2 in state Superior on the town’s behalf.

The Department of Housing “has prejudiced the substantial rights of the Town” because its decision violated state law, according to the complaint, filed on the municipality’s behalf by lawyer Nicholas Bamonte of Berchem Moses PC, the town attorney’s firm. The agency “ acted contrary to its own past practice and procedure under analogous circumstances,” Bamonte said in the six-page complaint. The denial was “arbitrary or capricious or characterized by abuse of discretion or clearly unwarranted exercise of discretion, in that DOH has previously awarded a Certificate of Affordable Housing Completion/Moratorium to at least one municipality with the same facts, but arbitrarily made the opposite decision when considering the Town’s Application,” the complaint said.

The lawsuit is separate from the petition the town filed with the state Housing Department last month, asking the agency to reconsider its decision to deny New Canaan’s application for four years of relief from a law known by its statute number, 8-30g.

Under it, developers who propose housing projects where at least 30% of units will be rented at affordable rates can get around local Planning & Zoning Commission decisions through an appeals process. 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, as it had signaled, on Nov. 28 denied the site application at Weed and Elm.

In the lawsuit, the town takes issue with the way the state has counted the “housing unit equivalent” or HUE points needed to achieve a moratorium. The state said in its denial that the town hadn’t correctly calculated its HUE points. While the state was considering the town’s application for the moratorium, First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said during a public meeting that the town had been “led to believe” it would be approved—an assertion that the DOH flatly denied.

Moynihan said this past summer that the town would not sue the state agency over a denial. During a Town Council meeting in June, Moynihan said, “[W]e are not going to force a state agency to change their position by litigation.”

13 thoughts on “Town Sues State Over Denial of Affordable Housing Moratorium

  1. Our town government seems to continue to lack any long term plan for affordable housing but will continue to spend tax payer money on attorneys. So what is the plan once the next 4 year moratorium is received? There is no town plan, no town project, not even a concept.
    Continue to waste money, time and effort fighting a 30 year state law——-

      • Agreed. Talking like he lives in New Canaan when he moved to Greenwich. Nice try that you really care about affordable housing. What a farce!

    • If this were the NY Post the headline might read Karp’s Krusade. Mr. Karp seems to think that he has been anointed to guide the town’s housing policy. Last I checked that is what elections and town gov’t. are for. He is likely correct that the town needs a plan and a long range strategy but the fact that he is choosing to use the state’s 8-30 g law to bludgeon the town into submission strips him of any legitimacy in this argument most especially because we all know that he stands to make quite a lot of money if his plans reach fruition. As far as wasting money and time and effort fighting a 30 yr old law, it is an unfortunate consequence of poorly written laws that they invite law suits which seems to me to be the case with the state’s interpretation of 8-30g. However it warrants noting that the town would not be faced with the urgency of this suit if Mr. Karp were not blatantly manipulating a poorly written law that puts many towns in the state in an impossible position of shooting for a 10% target that even under the best of circumstances will never be reached. For those watching Karp’s Kapers, his Hill St. project will be in front of town P&Z on Dec 13 and back in front of Inland Wetlands on Dec 19. Both are hybrid meetings and I urge interested residents to attend either in person or by zoom.

  2. Irrespective of peoples personal views of our First Selectman, I would encourage residents to review the facts of this case. If they are as alleged by the town and its lawyers, this is a necessary step. A conclusion on the court case will clear up how HUE points are calculated, and ensure all towns in the state understand how the process is run, and that government entities that are interpreting the law, are doing this in a fair and consistent manner in line with the actual intention of the law. A conclusion on this will also make clear how zoning actually works in the vast majority of towns in Connecticut, as so few municipalities in the state are 8-30g compliant regarding the 10% threshold.

  3. Whether the town hits the threshold for affordable housing or not they have done an admirable job on building this type of housing and for developers to try and slip under this dubious bar only confirms that the developers are interested in anything other than affordable housing and more about taking advantage of a perceived loophole to build out of context projects in areas that have long been single family housing.

    • A loophole is a gap in the law. 8-30g is the law – it’s very straightforward – there is no loophole. Why not consider that developers actually are interested in affordable housing. This developer is. I understand that you do not like the appearance of the proposed projects but that is a different point.

      • As you indicated earlier, in this publication, in the area that was highest priority for New Canaan for a public / private development of affordable units, which the organization I believe you work for, very recently developed, no affordable units were proposed from the outset. Part of the reason we have the issue here in town, is due to not following the town affordable housing plan for that area.

        • We build all kinds of housing. Any one project can’t be everything to everyone. We build what the market demands, which, in this day and age, is all types of housing.

          The town’s affordable housing plan? You mean get from moratorium to moratorium? That’s not a real plan.

          • You and your principal ask for an affordable housing plan often – here it is I have no doubt like any plan it can be improved.
            The problem appears to be that the plan was not followed by you or the town in the most significant multi-family housing project this town has seen in some time – as you say often 8-30g (and the affordable housing issue) is not a new thing, so it was around when the Vue was planned.
            This lack of compliance with the town affordable housing plan has directly caused some of the issues we are dealing with now, and I presume also displaced the 38 families who lived where the Vue now stands.
            The benefits provided by these projects that you are proposing is that the affordable housing issue and the laws around it are now much better known and understood by the residents of town. We should thank you for that. I am confident that residents of New Canaan can properly address this issue. We also now better understand investor motivations of non-residents and should take that into account as our plans are updated..

  4. Paul. Just for the record when Karp proposed the View the stick he used to push the commission was that if the did not get approval he would apply for affordable housing. That was confirmed in an editorial in the Advertiser by the chairman of the Housing Commission. You can’t have it both ways . Using affordable housing for your stick or carrot shows that its not the concern for affordable housing for teacher, cops etc but simply a way to get through in any way projects that are not wanted nor conforming to town regulations.

    • And what I’m saying is we are concerned about building affordable housing, along with other types of housing, because that’s what’s needed. We’re including a mix of 30% affordable/70% market rate in these applications because that’s what we want to build.

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