SOUTHINGTON — A local developer and business owner reintroduced a plan for housing on Laning Street during informal discussions with the Planning and Zoning Commission Tuesday.
Frank Fragola, owner of 11 acres of undeveloped land at 295 Laning St., suggested the creation of an elderly housing opportunity zone that would allow for greater density of construction on the property as well as other parcels in town that meet certain criteria.
Two years ago, Fragola had proposed 60 age-restricted condos in a golf community for his 11-acre property on Laning Street. The development near Hawk’s Landing Country Club would have required a zone change to allow for greater density, a change Fragola’s attorney Bryan Meccariello said would have been unlikely. That plan was withdrawn in early 2016.
On Tuesday, Meccariello and Jim Sakonchick, president of the engineering firm Kratzert, Jones & Associates, discussed the creation of the elderly housing opportunity zone with planning commission members.
No plans or proposals to change town zoning regulations have been submitted and planning commission members aren’t allowed to commit to voting a certain way during informal discussions. Commissioners did express concerns about allowing for increased density, saying town residents have spoken repeatedly about their opposition to further development.
“Folks are blinded by it,” said commission Chairman Michael DelSanto about increased density. “They don’t want more.”
Sakonchick said Southington could take part in the “megatrend” of smaller, low-maintenance housing for aging but still active seniors and empty-nesters. That population still want to own a home and have a small yard, but don’t want the taxes and upkeep associated with big homes on large plots.
Last month, Sakonchick proposed but then withdrew a plan to create an elderly housing opportunity district which would apply to properties on main roads served by public utilities.
The Laning Street property has a minimum lot size of two acres. Sakonchick said the only way to get greater density under the current regulations is to propose a development with a portion of affordable housing under a state statute that limits local zoning boards’ ability to deny such applications.
Those applications are often litigated and not the preferable route in this case, Sakonchick said.
Rob Philips, Southington town planner, said affordable housing projects can be a “bargaining chip” for developers looking for concessions from the town.
Meccariello said affordable housing is often misunderstood as low-income, which it isn’t. Affordable housing units are priced based on the area’s median income.
Meccariello said a senior housing development is better for the town and serves a growing need as the over-55 population increases.
Commission members wanted more information on how many properties the elderly housing zone could impact. They were also concerned about further development on Laning Street, citing opposition to housing recently built on nearby Loper Street.
DelSanto said the discussion required more consideration and that any application would be considered by the commission.
“I imagine the seats won’t be empty that night,” he said.