Fairfield residents try to stop downtown affordable housing project

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FAIRFIELD – A group of residents have filed a petition to intervene in the approval process for an unpopular affordable housing proposal made for the town centre.

The petition was filed under Connecticut’s environmental protection law by the Fairfield Center Alliance, the Town Plan and Zoning Commission was heard at Tuesday’s meeting. He argues that a large storm would overwhelm the proposed stormwater management and drainage systems, potentially causing flooding and affecting water quality.

Planner Jim Wendt said the commission will have to assess whether the concerns raised by the petitioners show the development would create unreasonable pollution.


The app, made by developer 15 Unquowa Road, LLC, seeks to build a Multi-family development of 63 units at the address for which it bears the name. The development would be known as Center Commons.

After the claimant provided more details about the project and the petitioners raised their concerns, the panel decided to continue the hearing at a later date due to time constraints. This will be the fourth hearing on the application, where the public will talk about the development and the Commons Center team will conclude with a rebuttal.

Questions from the commission and comments from opponents of the development focused on parking, traffic, public safety, sewers and drainage.

Steven Trinkaus, a civil engineer hired by the alliance to review the plans, raised several concerns. He said the parking ramp was too steep and the entrance and exit were too narrow. He also said that according to the plans, the runoff water would not drain properly into the garage.

Trinkaus, who said he has worked on applications for affordable housing in and around Fairfield, said the developer’s plan for 60 parking spaces for 63 apartments is not adequate, even though it is assumed that many residents will use the train.

“We all have cars, even though we live in a (transit-oriented development) apartment,” he said. “We do other things on the weekends. From the start, you have a deficit of at least three places.

Trinkaus also raised issues with sightlines when exiting the property, as well as the types of soil and groundwater testing performed on the property.

Christopher Smith, the developer’s attorney, has said in previous hearings that the request aligns with The Fairfield Affordable Housing Planciting aspects of the plan’s goals such as providing a diverse housing stock for a wide variety of people, promoting walking and transit-oriented development, as well as helping to retain existing businesses and attract new ones.

City documents report that the developer is requesting a zoning text amendment and site plan approval from the commission. The property is a through lot between Unquowa and Sanford Street, adjacent to the Community Theater. A nomination was withdrawn last year for this site.

Officials noted that the proposal called for a taller building than the previous request, with plans for 51/2 floors. There will also be parking under and around the building. The height of the building would be higher than allowed by zoning regulations, but the application was filed under 8-30g, so the developer would be exempt from this rule.

State law 8-30g allows developers to circumvent municipal laws and regulations as long as a certain percentage of the project is affordable housing. Of the 63 units in this development, 19 would be restricted because affordable.

According to city documents, the 20,610-square-foot property would be the site of a 66,140-square-foot apartment building that would offer 16 bachelor apartments, four one-bedroom apartments and 43 two-bedroom apartments.

Residents and officials have rallied — literally — against the proposal, with a rally held just an hour before the hearing in which opposition to the building was discussed. There was also a petition to stop the proposalwhich has garnered around 1,900 signatures since its inception last month.

The proponent’s experts say the proposal would have limited impact on traffic and parking in the area, while claiming that sewers and drainage would be improved by the project. Not all commissioners were satisfied with this assessment.

“I don’t see how adding a 106-room building, plus extra dens, could generate less travel than what currently exists,” said curator Kathryn Braun, adding later that she doubted that the building has adequate parking.

joshua.labella@hearstmediact.com


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