Age-restricted housing debate continues

Even if Ridgefield Road is stricken from the town’s new age-restricted zoning regulations, a multi-unit housing development could still be built at 183 Ridgefield Road. That was the verdict delivered to a crowd of more than 100 people who turned out for a public hearing before the Planning and Zoning Commission Monday night, May 22, at the Clune Center.

The reason, town counsel Ira Bloom explained, is that 183 Ridgefield Road LLC has already filed an application for a change of zone for that property from R2A to the age-restricted overlay district (AROD). Once an application has been filed and accepted by the commission, it is subject to regulations already in place. Since the age-restricted zoning amendment that includes Ridgefield Road is on the books, that is the regulation that will apply when the commission considers that application on June 12.

Monday night’s hearing, however, was a continuation of a hearing that opened on May 8 on an application filed by Ridgefield Road resident Vicki Mavis that asks for Ridgefield Road to be removed as an age-restricted overlay district and for a moratorium on age-restricted developments.

The May 8 hearing lasted some four hours and Monday night’s hearing lasted about three hours. The matter was still not concluded, however, when Mavis’ attorney Chris Russo requested a continuance to allow submission of expert opinion. The commission’s next meeting is June 12.

Dozens of people spoke and most of those who did spoke against the zoning regulation that would permit a maximum of three houses per acre on parcels of three to 25 acres on Ridgefield Road.

They included Mike Sherman, who lives on Ridgefield Road, who said, “I noticed all the people who live in town are opposed, with the exception of those who live out of town.”

Tom Gunther, who lives in a 19th-Century home on Ridgefield Road, said he is over 65 and if he wanted to find an affordable place to live it would not be there. He would want to be in a town where he could walk to shops and restaurants and not have to drive a car.

The issue of affordable housing — which some people equated with low-income housing — came up time and time again during the evening. Some feared increasing the density for age-restricted housing would open the door to affordable housing but Bloom said it would have no effect. The opportunity to develop affordable housing exists on any property in town as long as a developer is willing to devote 30% of the units for that purpose, he said.

To that end, Stephen Hudspeth of Glen Hill Road warned that by discouraging reasonable development it would encourage higher-density affordable housing. He thought AROD could be an option for encouraging development that is minimally invasive.

(This story will be updated and a more in-depth story will appear in this week’s Bulletin.)