FAIRFIELD, CT – After months of discussions in Hartford – and Fairfield – several changes to state zoning law that could affect affordable housing in the city were passed in the House and Senate just days after that the Selectmen board of directors approved a resolution opposing the policies.
The proposed changes, which will now be considered by Governor Ned Lamont, have inspired a protest rally and several community conversations this spring in Fairfield.
“It’s about controlling our No.1 asset, which is our real estate,” Selectman Tom Flynn said at a May 17 meeting, in which he spoke in favor of the resolution against the ” one-size-fits-all “mandated by the state. zoning legislation.
The resolution also opposed granting outside authority jurisdiction over Fairfield’s affordable housing plan and supported local zoning control. The measure was passed along party lines with Democrat Nancy Lefkowitz as the sole dissenter.
âFor me, the community doesn’t stop at borders,â Lefkowitz said, arguing that the legislative process was the appropriate method for determining zoning laws.
First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick said that while she didn’t expect the resolution to change her mind in Hartford, she wanted to send a message.
âTake a deep breath, stop passing things and work on what we already have in front of us,â she said. “We should at least have the opportunity to submit our housing plans and comply with what has already been requested.”
The General Assembly took a different path. On May 20, the House voted in favor of an amended version of Bill 6107, and the Senate approved the changes on Thursday. The bill creates a committee to monitor municipal affordable housing compliance and redefines the word âcharacterâ to relate to physical standards, according to the Hartford Courant. It also allows accessory units – which are already licensed in Fairfield – and limits parking requirements for apartment developers, the Courant reported.
Municipalities can opt out of the parking rules with a two-thirds vote of the Zoning Commission and the Selectmen Board of Directors.
A partisan divide was evident in the way Fairfield lawmakers responded to the passage of the bill.
âHB 6107 will enable communities to plan for their future, address economic development and environmental sustainability, and promote the creation of equitable and inclusive communities,â said State Representative Cristin McCarthy Vahey, D-133 . in a Facebook post. “COVID has taught us how much what happens in one place impacts another. This bill … will help us understand this connection with each other and support each other, to both individually as communities and collectively as a state. “
McCarthy Vahey co-chairs the state planning and development committee. State Senator Tony Hwang, R-28, is a member of the ranking committee.
“I am deeply concerned about how this bill has been falsely claimed to ‘strengthen’ local zoning and land use rules,” he said in a press release. “If the legislator really wanted to implement visionary solutions in affordable housing regulations, we should reconsider Article 8-30g of the General Statute of the TB which has not been reviewed since 1989.”
Section 8-30g applies to cities where less than 10 percent of the housing stock meets the criteria to be recognized as affordable. By law, the only way Fairfield officials can avoid approving housing proposals that consist of at least 30% affordable units is to prove that a project poses a threat to public health, well-being and security that outweighs the need for affordable housing.
In recent years, the city has signed 20 developments with almost 1,400 units in total – just over 300 are affordable – under 8-30g or inclusive zoning bylaws, Fairfield planning director said. , Jim Wendt on May 5 at an event to discuss proposed zoning changes.
The Senate zoning vote was not the only affordable housing news to affect Fairfield in recent days. The Fairfield Housing Authority and Operation Hope declared an affordable housing crisis in the city in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday, citing Fairfield’s tight economy and high housing costs, and calling on Lamont and local lawmakers to allocate funds to resolve the problem.