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Sandy Hook Center- WSA Endorses Extending Sewers To Condo Complex



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Sandy Hook Center—

WSA Endorses Extending Sewers

To Condo Complex

By Andrew Gorosko

The Water and Sewer Authority (WSA) has granted preliminary approval to extend sewers to a proposed 24-unit condominium complex on a 10.5-acre site along the west side of Washington Avenue in Sandy Hook Center.

 In their action, WSA members granted the preliminary approval on February 21 to Michael Burton Builders, Inc. The municipal sewer system runs past the site located at 12 through 20-A Washington Avenue. The proposal is known as Washington Avenue Housing.

In response to the WSA’s preliminary approval, Mr Burton said he would be submitting an application for the project for review and approval by the Inland Wetlands Commission (IWC). Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) review and approval of such construction also would be required.

The IWC would determine whether the site is in a flood hazard area, among other issues.

The development site is largely located outside the town’s sewer district, so the boundary lines of the sewer district would need to be modified to allow the complex to discharge wastewater into the sewer system.

In its motion granting preliminary approval for a sewer connection, WSA members found that the applicant had demonstrated that the complex could be served by a large-scale septic waste disposal system.

 But due to WSA concerns about the long-term functioning of such a septic system, which would be located within the town’s environmentally sensitive Aquifer Protection District (APD) above the Pootatuck Aquifer, WSA members decided that it would be in the town’s long-term best interest to extend a sewer system connection to the complex.

In a February 21 memo to the WSA, Health Director Donna Culbert wrote, in part, “It is...the health district’s position that connection to an available sanitary sewer is recommended as the preferred viable long-term method for wastewater disposal, particularly in this case, as the proposed project is also within the aquifer protection zone.”

The proposed condo complex would discharge roughly 5,000 gallons of wastewater daily into the sewer system, said Public Works Director Fred Hurley.

After gaining approvals for the project from the IWC and P&Z, Mr Burton would need to return to the WSA to receive a final sewer connection approval.

In a January 14 letter to Mr Burton, Elizabeth Stocker, who is the town’s director of planning and community development, wrote that the project is eligible for P&Z review under the terms of the town’s Affordable Housing Development (AHD) zoning regulations, which have been in effect since 1996. The construction density of such a complex is dependant upon the availability of public sewer service at the site, she wrote.

The level site owned by Mr Burton is in a R-2 zone. It lies between Washington Avenue and the Pootatuck River. Mr Burton describes the proposal as a “workforce housing community,” which would comply with the terms of the P&Z’s existing set of zoning regulations on “affordable housing.”

The proposed complex would consist of six new multiunit buildings. Five buildings would contain four housing units each. One building would contain two units, plus associated storage facilities. Also, existing houses at #18 and #20 Washington Avenue would be part of the 24-unit complex. Each of those two houses now has sewer service.

In the proposed complex, 11 of the new multifamily units would be one-story, two-bedroom ranch-style residences, with the other 11 new residences designed as two-story, three-bedroom townhouse units. Of the 24 units, eight units would be designated as “affordable housing.”

In such complexes, developers receive a “density bonus” from land use agencies as an incentive to create affordable housing. Thus, construction is allowed at a higher-than-normal density. The sale prices of market-rate units, in effect, subsidize the sale prices of affordable housing units, which are sold at much lower prices, based on the state’s definition of “affordable housing.”

Mr Burton has said he envisions a housing complex in which about half of the units would be sold to owners, and the other half of the units would be rented out to tenants.

To provide the housing complex’s residents with direct pedestrian access to the businesses in Sandy Hook Center, Mr Burton proposes constructing a footbridge across the Pootatuck River, which would link the housing site to the rear of a business plaza located at 102 Church Hill Road.

Other Condo Complex

Last year, a Danbury developer filed court appeals against the P&Z and the WSA after both those agencies rejected its proposal to create a 26-unit condo complex including eight affordable housing units on a steep, rugged 4.5-acre site at 95-99 Church Hill Road in Sandy Hook Center. The P&Z had rejected site plans for the Edona Commons project and the WSA had rejected a sewer connection for the complex. Both of Dauti Construction, LLC’s, lawsuits are pending in New Britain Superior Court.

Those lawsuits are filed under the provisions of the state’s Affordable Housing Land Use Appeals Act. Under that law, applicants for affordable housing projects that are rejected by municipal land use agencies gain certain legal leverage in getting those projects approved through court appeals. Only public health issues and public safety issues are considered to be justifiable reasons for a land use agency to reject an affordable housing project.

Unlike Mr Burton’s project, which seeks to comply with the P&Z’s existing regulations on affordable housing complexes, the Dauti proposal for Edona Commons seeks to have the P&Z modify many zoning regulations to allow Edona Commons to be built.

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