The Planning and Zoning Department has set a date for a public hearing on Darien's 8-30g moratorium application, an event triggered by a petition from developers Chris and Margaret Stefanoni submitted to the town earlier this month.
The hearing will take place Tuesday, June 29 at 8 p.m. in the Town Hall auditorium. Members of the Planning and Zoning Commission will be in attendance.
Minutes from the hearing, as well as any public comments submitted to the department, must be included when the town sends its application to Connecticut's Department of Economic and Community Development. Darien announced its intention to apply in mid-May.
The moratorium would give the town a four-year reprieve from provisions of state law 8-30g, which enables developers to circumvent many local zoning ordinances—including density restrictions—in order to encourage the construction of more affordable housing.
Normally 10 percent of a town's housing units must qualify as affordable for it to be exempt from the law, but if Darien can demonstrate that it has accumulated a certain total of affordable housing "points" since the law was passed, the state may award a temporary moratorium.
It was long thought that the town was short of the needed points (136 in Darien's case), but new legal reasoning assembled by Planning and Zoning earlier this year asserts that market-rate units from Avalon Darien Community and Apartments can be credited towards that total, potentially putting the town over the top.
That interpretation is sharply challenged in comments by the Stefanonis submitted alongside their petition, which assert that the Avalon Darien does not meet the state's definition of a "set-aside" development, a necessary designation in order for the market-rate units to count.
"The Town of Darien is claiming that the stringent aspects of the definition of a 'set-aside development' that require a 40-year deed restriction, higher percentages of affordable units, and lower maximum income levels do not apply to Avalon," the comments read, "but is simultaneously claiming that the beneficial aspect of the definition, specifically the moratorium points for market-rate units, do apply to Avalon. ... Avalon does not meet the definition."
Also disputed in the comments are points asserted by the town from other affordable housing developments, namely Villager Pond, Clock Hill Homes, and The Cottage in Darien.
The Stefanonis have interacted with the town numerous times in the past on development issues, including an ultimately abandoned attempt to turn their Nearwater Lane property into 13 units of senior housing, four of them affordable. Though the plan won approval from the Environmental Protection Commission, the Darien Land Trust, which owns the neighboring land, strongly opposed the idea. It ultimately bought the lot.
The pair is currently challenging the town's rejection of another proposed development—a 16-unit senior housing complex at Leroy and West—and has made recent property purchases on Hoyt Street and Tokeneke Road.
Once an application is submitted by the town, the Stefanonis or any other developer would have 90 days to file a project proposal under 8-30g to guarantee it would not be affected by a moratorium, if one is granted.
Chris Stefanoni said the petition is not a stall for time, but rather an attempt to lend transparency to the town's affordable housing agenda.
"My applications—if I want to submit them—have been ready for months," Stefanoni said.
"There was so much secrecy, and they [town officials] were fudging the numbers," he added.