Plans to expand Kensett housing project draw neighbors' ire
A 9-minute video of past Planning and Zoning Commission meetings proved to be a bombshell for residents opposed to expansion of the Kensett housing development.
A public hearing continued Tuesday night on the second phase of a project originally designed to offer a down-sizing alternative for empty-nesters who didn't want to leave Darien. The developer hopes to add 16 new units on 2.5 acres on Wakemore Street, 14 of which would be market rate and two units "affordable" criteria set by the state.
However, the room grew quiet and the commission members appeared serious as they watched a video clip of portions of 2007 P&Z meetings presented by Wilder Gleason, a lawyer representing some of Kensett neighbors, in which the applicant emphasized the first phase of the development was built for to appeal to empty-nesters.
"What you find is people don't want to move in here with children and we build for the people who feel that way," one of the representatives of Sun Homes Darien told the commission at that time.
Gleason said, however, that most the 23 units that have been built at this time don't have a master bedroom on the ground floor, offer four or five bedrooms, and in most cases, have 5.5 bathrooms. They are also much larger than the 3,500 square feet originally talked about, with some as large as 5,700 square feet.
Gleason said the property owners he represents not only want to see the new application denied, but would like the P&Z to consider modifying or even revoking the approvals it gave Sun Homes Darien in 2007, which he said were made contingent on promises that have not been kept.
"That was the niche that Kensett was designed to fill and that was what you were promised was going to happen," he said.
He also noted that the developer had not only marketed sizable homes, but had stressed the quality of Darien schools on its website promoting the project.
"It was going to be age-targeted marketing," Gleason said, noting that schools and their quality "are featured prominently right in the website, or were, until the last hearing," after he which he said the references were removed. He provided commissioners with copies of those web images, however.
"I don't think they're marketing to the age 55 and older empty-nesters," he said, suggesting the P&Z investigate how many Kensett residents have come from out of town and how many children are now living there.
Neighbors of the development noted that a group of parents regularly "queue up" on Wakemore Street in idling cars waiting for the children's school buses.
"There aren't a lot of measures you can take to regulate that, except self-regulation by the neighbors," said Bruce Hill, a lawyer for the applicant.
Prior to Gleason's presentation, Hill addressed several concerns that had been raised during the public hearing on the proposal to expand the development, including questions about drainage and parking.
Hill said there were a total of 62 units planned in the first phase of Kensett.
While he didn't address most of Gleason's presentation because of the late hour Tuesday, he made point regarding the concerns about drainage.
"The neighbors have seemed fit to hire two lawyers, one in 2007 and one now," he said. "My question is where is their engineer?"
The P&Z public hearing on the application was continued to Jan. 20.
"We're going to look at this," Cameron promised about the various questions raised.