Baywater pitches special needs project
Published 12:36 pm, Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Baywater Properties aired a potential project to provide housing for adults with special needs just off the Post Road to meet a requirement to include affordable units as part of a six-acre downtown development project.
The house would include 12 affordable units and could help the town qualify for an affordable housing moratorium from the state, Baywater Properties founder David Genovese told members of the Planning & Zoning Commission last week.
A major downtown development proposed by Baywater calls for creating about 80 residential units as part of a redevelopment of six acres also to include office and retail space. The town’s inclusionary zoning regulations would require about 10 units to meet the state’s affordable housing guidelines to be available to lower income people or pay a fee in lieu of affordable housing.
“To be candid we would rather come to you with this idea on East Lane after we have approval for the downtown project and know what our obligations are but life doesn’t always work out the way you want it to,” Genovese said. “An opportunity presented itself to acquire this property on East Lane which we think is ideally suited for an interesting concept to create affordable housing for adults with special needs.”
After earning an affordable housing moratorium in 2011, state housing officials decided last spring to reject the town’s request for a four-year extension, determining the town had developed enough of lower cost units quickly enough in recent years.
Genovese said in addition to helping the town meet affordable housing goals the project would help fill a social service need in the state to provide housing for special need adults. The apartments would be about 450 square feet each and split between two buildings.
Genovese said under the state’s affordable housing laws offering below market rate to disabled people could result in earning more than 30 units of credit for building the apartments.
“The need for this project is enormous,” Genovese said. “If we design this project as we’ve discussed you should get 12 housing credits at a minimum (toward the moratorium) and up to credit for 30 units.”
The developer is initially considering partnering with STAR Inc., an area non-profit that operates 12 group homes housing adults with developmental problems.
“We have an increasing number of friends in town with children with special needs who are coming to grips with this issue,” Genovese said.
Zoning Chairman Susan Cameron questioned whether building as few as 12 units would generate enough income to maintain the properties.
“We have to figure that out. Candidly, this is a money losing operation for us in that selling a unit at a below market rate to selling it at a market rate is a money losing proposition,” Genovese said. “We’re going 100 percent affordable at a lower income rate and throttling back on the density. Because we want to do something good.”
New Canaan resident Laurie Rowley said she is concerned about safety for the special needs adults given the speed and frequency of traffic on Old Kings Highway North at the end of East Lane. Rowley, whose parents live next to the house at 26 East Lane, forbid their grandchildren from crossing the street, and she isn’t sure traffic calming and crosswalks would be enough to protect the special need residents.
“It is incredibly dangerous and I would invite anyone to try and cross that street,” Rowley said. “I think it is paramount for anyone at that location who is thinking of getting a job within walking distance to consider that that is highly dangerous.”
Peter Gogolek, who has a son who lives at the Cottage, a facility for adults with developmental disabilities, said adequate supervision would prevent residents from crossing the street unsafely.
“If it would be STAR there would be total supervision 24 hours a day,” Gogolek said.
Genovese said he is committed to working out the details to satisfy any safety or other concerns about impact on the neighborhood.
Cameron said she liked the concept of the housing on the basis it would improve the diversity of the housing available to a lower income population that is underserved statewide.
“I think this is very interesting but I think we need to think about it,” Cameron said.