Developer appeals Berlin PZC decision in court

Developer appeals Berlin PZC decision in court

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BERLIN — The developer behind a proposed affordable housing complex has filed an appeal seeking to have the Planning and Zoning Commission’s rejection overturned.

The commission unanimously denied the applications by Rio Vista Associates LLC. on Sept. 11, citing concerns aired by residents across two lengthy public hearings, including dangerous conditions, insufficient infrastructure and inconsistency with existing regulations.

The Rio Vista applications would have created a new “Affordable Residential Planned Development” zone and applied it to 9 acres on Atkins Street contiguous with the town’s Pistol Creek property. A conceptual plan, shown at the public hearings by Rio Vista principal William Krame, called for 11 multi-story buildings with 319 apartments. A total of 96 were earmarked as affordable.

Town Planner Marek Kozikowski said the town was expecting the appeal, which was filed in New Britain Superior Court.

“I think the Planning and Zoning Commission did a great job laying out the issues they had with the proposed amendments and they did a good job establishing the record and gave some very solid and thought out reasons why they voted to deny the application,” he said.

Since less than 10 percent of the town’s residential units are considered affordable, under state law the PZC is required to show that its decision was made to “protect substantial public interests in health, safety or other matters” and that “such public interests clearly outweigh the need for affordable housing.”

In the motion rejecting the applications, the PZC said the development would negatively influence health by impacting nearby recreational facilities and exacerbate unsafe conditions on Atkins Street by sharply increasing traffic on a narrow road with difficult sight lines. The commission also cited the buildings being about 20 feet from the road.  The motion also noted that the town is close to reaching the 10 percent threshold with 9.23 percent of the housing designated affordable.

“The Town of Berlin has been proactive in creating affordable housing with adopting multiple affordable housing regulations,” it reads.

The appeal filed with the court by Rio Vista counters that most of the affordable housing in Berlin is limited to senior citizens.

“Most of Berlin’s existing affordable housing units (i.e. approximately 84%) are age restricted for use by the elderly and, therefore, are unavailable to, and exclude, working age adults as well as children,” the appeal said.

It also said that the conceptual plan adequately addresses the concerns about road safety and infrastructure.

“During the public hearing, the Plaintiff introduced substantial, credible evidence that the Affordable Housing Development, as designed, can be constructed on the Premises and occupied without harm to the environment and without impairing the safety and welfare of both future residents and the general public,” the appeal says.
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