New land-use law bypasses Wilton

A state housing land-use procedure law that was vetoed by the governor but revived by the legislature with an override appears to have little or no effect in Wilton because it is aimed at larger communities, according to Town Counsel Ira Bloom.
First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice forwarded the new law to Bloom for review. This act, House Bill 6880, makes several changes to the affordable-housing, land-use appeals procedure which requires planning and zoning commissions to defend their decisions to deny affordable housing developments or approve them with certain conditions. Generally, the act makes it easier for municipalities to qualify for a temporary suspension of (moratorium) or exemption from the procedure.
Bloom will report to Vanderslice and the Planning and Zoning Commission that the law appears geared toward larger communities with more than 20,000 living units.
“It doesn’t appear initially to offer significant benefits to Wilton. There may be some helpful provisions in terms of qualifying units for a moratorium,” said Bloom, who said it is a detailed new law and he has someone in his office analyzing it closely.
“It won’t be terribly relevant,” he said.
State Rep. Gail Lavielle said the new law was intended to make changes in the unpopular 8-30g affordable housing law.
However, she said:

  • The new law did not nullify the 8-30g statute or eliminate affordable housing requirements. On the contrary. With insights stemming from the nearly three decades of the statute's existence, it updated 8-30g to respond to feedback from many communities across the state.

  • The law's passage and the subsequent override of the governor's veto were important because they signaled for the first time in many years an openness among urban legislators to making changes in the statute. Because the stat ute has made it very difficult - almost impossible — for many communities to comply with it, changes are necessary if the law is to allow towns both to achieve compliance and to respect their local zoning regulations and plans of conservation and development, while still fulfilling its main purpose of fostering and stimulating the construction of affordable housing.

The passage of the new law is a very small step, Laveille said. “There is still a long way to go, and I hope that the bipartisan collaboration that led to this first step will continue and produce further modifications that will help communities like Wilton meet the state's affordable housing requirements while preserving their history and unique character,” she said.
State Sen. Toni Boucher did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new law but she issued a press release last month applauding its passage.
“By requiring municipalities to develop their own plans for addressing affordable housing, this legislation gives local community members and leaders a stake in what is developed in their communities,” she said. “This promotes well-thought-out community development with a vision for the future success of the area, not just the profits to be made by selling as many units as possible.”
Vanderslice said the changes for Wilton are incremental at best.
“The focus of the changes are for towns with 20,000 or more housing units, mobile home parks or Incentive Housing Zones. None of these changes apply to Wilton,” she said.
Wilton is in year two of a four-year moratorium on developers' ability to use 8-30(g) within Wilton. Municipalities can apply for a second moratorium but they have to have achieved a net increase of 2% in their affordable housing stock since they applied for the previous moratorium.
“We do not expect to meet that threshold when this moratorium expires,” Vanderslice said. “New affordable units have been added, but existing units have expired.”