Special-needs housing plan gets mixed reviews
DARIEN — Baywater Properties’ plan to develop special needs housing was met with support and skepticism at a public hearing Tuesday night.
“This is a really unique opportunity to partner both an affordable housing component with serving the needs of developmentally disabled people whose housing options have been significantly limited throughout the state,” First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said.
Stevenson said Darien could be a leader and model for other communities and could help serve a population that has been incredibly underserved.
Wilder Gleason, an attorney representing a neighbor of the property on East Lane, said he still had concerns about the development due to the density and location of the project. Gleason does not want residents in the new housing to be isolated.
Baywater principal David Genovese said the affordable housing development will not isolate the residents. The plan is to have 12 units for adults with special needs or seniors at 26 East Lane, with the income limit set at 40 percent of state median income, and three units downtown at 80 percent of state median income. If not they will build all the required affordable units downtown at 80 percent of state median income, which would not be restricted for adults with special needs.
“This is not putting people in an area of Darien so far removed they won’t be seen by anyone,” Genovese said.
Baywater will work with Abilis, a nonprofit that provides services and support for special-needs individuals and their families, to manage the affordable housing units.
Genovese said Baywater would be willing to concede authority to Abilis on the selection of tenants. They proposed Abilis or another third-party group manage the tenants.
Amy Montimurro, interim CEO for Abilis, said the organization serves over 700 families, and its focus is to integrate people into their communities and build independence.
“We have a very positive response to what Mr. Genovese is proposing,” Montimurro said. “There are many people that will benefit from this development.”
Montimurro said there is a true need for affordable housing in the area. The amount of support the organization provides varies depending on the individual’s needs.
“Some people require four hours a day. Some twice a week for an hour,” she said.
Planning and Zoning Chairman John Sini said more clarity was needed on the proposal and who would live in the units before a decision could be made. The board emphasized that affordable housing and special-needs housing are not two separate populations.
Individuals with special needs may have limited funds, and the proposal would help them afford the apartment and cover support they may need, Montimurro said.
The commission decided against making any decisions until some of the ambiguity in the proposal was cleared up. Despite the pushback, Genovese said he was not discouraged from completing the project.
The Planning and Zoning panel will continue deliberations at its Sept. 11 meeting.