BERLIN — The Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously rejected an affordable housing zone that a developer sought to allow construction of 11 multi-story buildings with 319 apartments.
The amendments proposed by Rio Vista Associates LLC would have rezoned 19 acres on Atkins Street, near the Middletown line.
Since Berlin is under the 10 percent threshold of affordable housing prescribed by state housing statutes, the commission’s ability to reject the proposal was limited to issues “necessary to protect substantial public interests in health, safety or other matters which the commission may legally consider.”
Residents who attended public hearings in June and July were also uniformly opposed to the changes. The PZC voted occurred on Sept. 11.
"With respect even to the road safety, the road widths and the proposal in the text amendment allow for a building to be 20 feet off the street with no sidewalks on a narrow roadway that two cars have a hard enough time passing to begin with ... to me it is outrageous to think that the applicant thinks that that's a reasonable proposal," PZC Vice Chairperson Diane Jorsey said during the commission’s first round of deliberations on August 22.
After the Aug. 22 meeting, the commission directed Town Planner Marek Kozikowski to draft a written motion outlining its reasons for rejecting the amendments.
The document describes Atkins Street and surrounding roads as “narrow, rural farm roads with no existing stormwater, sanitary sewer, or water infrastructures; no shoulders or sidewalks; poor road conditions; and difficult site lines. A development with the density proposed would have detrimental impacts on traffic in the area as supported by the significant amount testimony received by the commission from residents.”
Of the 140 municipalities that have less than 10 percent of its housing stock considered affordable, Berlin is the third closest to meeting the goal at 9.23 percent, according to the 2018 Affordable Housing Appeals List.
During the July hearing, Robert Berchem, an attorney with Berchem and Moses, which is representing Rio Vista, said the town is still lacking enough affordable housing to provide young professionals and the elderly a place to live where they work or to retire in their community.
"There's an effort here to recognize that people who live in town or work in town, candidly, don't necessarily make enough to buy in town,” Bercham said. “This project ... will allow a teacher, a fireman, a policeman, to stay in Berlin... Right now, the availability of rental stock is simply so low as to be almost non-available."