Developers Chris and Margaret Stefanoni — long known for doing battle with Darien over their proposed multifamily developments — are pitching a new approach to affordable housing in town: a floating zone.
In an Aug. 4 filing with the , the couple proposes an amendment to the town's regulations that would give "every property owner in the Town of Darien the right and opportunity to develop their property with affordable housing."
If enacted, the plan would create a special zone that any landowner in Darien could apply to their property. The owner would then be allowed to develop affordable housing consistent with Connecticut General Statute 8-30g, which requires that at least 30 percent of the units be priced below market rate.
"This floating zone will not only permit new development or redevelopment with significantly higher density, but would also allow many of the illegal 'in-law' apartments to automatically become conforming under the zoning regulations [provided the units comply with town and state requirements]," the proposal states.
"The intent of this Affordable Housing Floating Zone is to facilitate private development of affordable housing with a density that has already been found to be acceptable by the Town of Darien," it adds.
The proposal goes on to describe various setback and density guidelines for the zone. Developments would be limited to three stories and a density of 35 units per acre.
Between 1.5 and 2.0 parking spaces per unit would be required, depending on whether the units were designated for seniors.
In a written statement, Chris Stefanoni said that the proposal "is especially for the little guy, because there are too many lawyers, liars, and bullies at the top."
"Many people have approached me on how they can develop affordable housing on their own property, and this is exactly the vehicle they need," Stefanoni said. "The Town will never build affordable housing on its own, so this amendment gives power to every property owner and allows them to rise up, fight back, and accomplish what the local government is unwilling to do despite clear housing mandates by the state and federal government."
As written, the proposal would potentially allow developers to do an end-run around the 8-30g moratorium .
Normally 8-30g provides a favorable appeals process to affordable housing developers as a means of encouraging construction. But on the basis of affordable units added over the past two decades, the Department of Economic and Community Development granted the town a four-year reprieve in the fall.
Earlier this year, the Stefanonis' on that moratorium decision — a possible precursor to a lawsuit.
But their request was rejected, partly on the grounds that the couple had no active affordable housing proposals before the P&Z commission and therefore lacked standing. (The Stefanonis in May.)
The couple's floating zone proposal may improve their standing for future legal challenges, however, as the text specifically references the Stefanonis' 149 Nearwater Ln. address as a possible location for affordable housing.
According to P&Z Director Jeremy Ginsberg, the couple's plan would not be the first floating zone in Darien. The town already has a Municipal Use Zone on the books, which Ginsberg said has been used for the and headquarters.
A public hearing for the plan will likely be scheduled for October or November, Ginsberg said.