Year In Review: Incentive Housing Comes To Newtown
2015 may be remembered as the time when the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) created the Incentive Housing — 10 (IH-10) zoning regulations — a regulatory mechanism that resulted in the P&Z’s approval of two major multifamily housing complexes.
A proposed third major housing complex, which was in the formative stages, failed to proceed to a formal P&Z application after the Water & Sewer Authority (WSA) for a second time rejected the developer’s request for sanitary sewer service.
The IH-10 regulations, which were approved by the P&Z in January, require that at least 20 percent of the dwellings in a high-density, multifamily complex be reserved as affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families and individuals. The IH-10 regulations allow such complexes to have a commercial component, either within the complex or nearby.
The P&Z created the IH-10 regulations to provide a regulatory alternative for developers who would otherwise seek to build housing complexes under the terms of the state’s Affordable Housing Appeals Act (AHAA). The IH-10 rules provide the P&Z with regulatory leverage in terms of a housing complex’s design, which is not provided by the AHAA process.
The IH-10 rules effectively replace the P&Z’s Affordable Housing Development (AHD) zoning regulations.
Through the IH-10 rules, the P&Z is seeking to meet state standards for the minimum amount of affordable housing that is available within a municipality.
A major mixed-use development planned for a 42-acre site off Hawleyville Road (Route 25), near the Exit 9 interchange of Interstate 84, gained final approval from the P&Z in December, marking the land use agency’s endorsement of one the largest local development projects in memory. That project includes 180 rental apartments which were approved under the IH-10 rules.
P&Z members unanimously approved a special permit for Covered Bridge Newtown, LLC’s plans for the apartments contained in six three-story buildings on Covered Bridge Road, plus a diner at 13 Hawleyville Road. In November, the P&Z had approved a special permit for Grace Family Church, Inc’s, proposal to construct a new church off Covered Bridge Road, as part of that mixed-use project.
The three development components earlier had received wetlands/watercourses protection permits from the Inland Wetlands Commission (IWC).
The magnitude of the mixed-use project, and especially the amount of traffic that it would generate in Hawleyville, drew concerns from residents who attended the many public hearings held by the P&Z and the IWC.
In August, under the terms of the IH-10 rules, the P&Z approved the construction of The River Walk at Sandy Hook Village, a 65-unit condominium complex planned for the west side of Washington Avenue in Sandy Hook Center, near the Pootatuck River.
Divergent viewpoints on the wisdom of constructing the project had come into focus earlier when members of the local business community voiced strong support for the project, but some Sandy Hook residents urged that the developer build significantly fewer than 65 dwellings, stating that 65 condos would amount to the overdevelopment of the site and would create traffic problems.
Local builder/developer Michael Burton, doing business as River Walk Properties, LLC, plans to build the project at an 11.8-acre site at #10 through #22 Washington Avenue. Mr Burton earlier had proposed a 74-unit complex for the site, but reduced the number of units in view of comments made at a P&Z public hearing.
Under the terms of the IH-10 regulations, River Walk would contain 13 units of affordable housing.
In April, the WSA rejected 79 Church Hill Road, LLC’s, controversial request for sanitary sewer service for land at 79 Church Hill Road. That 35-acre site, near the Exit 10 interchange of Interstate 84, is where the developer had proposed the construction of a large multifamily complex, with an affordable housing component.
The proposal to build a large multifamily complex drew stiff opposition from some Walnut Tree Hill Road area residents who charged that the presence of such a project would pose environmental problems.
The developer had declined to state how many dwellings would be built at the 79 Church Hill Road site, but his WSA application documents listed “350 units” as the maximum which would be allowed under the terms of applicable zoning rules. The project apparently would have been constructed under the terms of the IH-10 zoning regulations.
In February the P&Z approved The Preserve at Newtown, a planned 23-lot residential subdivision on 167 acres in Dodgingtown.
Notably, about half of the subdivision site would be preserved as undeveloped open space land which will be open to the public and reserved for low-intensity passive forms of recreation, such as hiking and nature study. The Preserve was the first residential subdivision approved by the P&Z under the terms of the “open space conservation subdivision” OSCS regulations, sometimes known as “cluster housing.” The applicants are the developers KASL, LLC, and IBF, LLC.
Under the developers’ plans, one housing cluster of nine single-family dwellings would be built along the southeast side of Robin Hill Road #2, which is a dead-end street extending northeastward from Rock Ridge Road, near Rock Ridge Country Club. The other cluster of single-family homes home would be built along a planned quarter-mile dead-end street extending southeastward from Scudder Road, south of Ferris Road.
At public hearings on the project, Scudder Road area residents stressed fears that their already unreliable domestic well water supplies would be diminished after new homes are built in that area and then start drawing up subterranean water through new wells. The developer responded that there will be sufficient underground water in the area for the new residents of the new subdivision, as well as current residents of the area.
Also, during 2015:
The P&Z in September approved plans to greatly expand the Rand-Whitney Container factory at 32 Schoolhouse Hill Road. P&Z members agreed that the plans to increase the factory’s size from 127,500 square feet to 308,000 square feet meet the standards and criteria for site development plan approval. The expanded factory would allow the firm to modernize its equipment to stay competitive in the corrugated cardboard container industry.
Following lengthy discussion at a heavily attended November public hearing, P&Z members approved a controversial change of zone for an eight-acre site at 116 South Main Street, thus allowing a commercial real estate firm to formulate a development proposal for a Tractor Supply Co store there.
In effect, the P&Z approval converted the property from R-1 (Residential) zoning designation to South Main Village Design District (SMVDD) overlay zoning. Tractor Supply would occupy a 19,000- to 20,000-square-foot store with an adjacent outdoor fenced display area of up to 20,000 square feet. Permits from the P&Z and IWC would be required before construction could occur.
However, following the P&Z’s approving a change of zone, 111 South Main Street, LLC, which owns some commercial property near the site, filed an appeal in Danbury Superior Court challenging the change of zone and seeking to overturn it. The lawsuit is pending.
In November, the P&Z approved zoning regulations that create an Exit 10 Commercial Design District (CDD) overlay zone along sections of Church Hill Road, Edmond Road, and Commerce Road, near the Exit 10 interchange of Interstate 84.
Among other land uses, the zoning regulations would allow an applicant to seek P&Z approval for a new restaurant which has drive-through window service, provided that the commercial project’s design meets a range of requirements specified by the CDD zoning regulations.
In 2015 in the borough, work progressed on The Village at Lexington Gardens, a multibuilding commercial complex under construction at 30 Church Hill Road.
The project, which is being built by Mesa General Contractors, Inc, of New Milford, is the largest commercial redevelopment in the borough since the redevelopment of Newtown Shopping Village at 6 Queen Street, which was approved by borough land use officials in January 1996.
At the new commercial complex, retail uses would locate at ground level and professional offices would be situated on the upper level. Initial occupancy in the newly constructed buildings is expected to occur in April, with a coordinated opening of multiple businesses expected in May.