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Monday, February 19 News

Appeal rejected for Wilton Road affordable housing complex

WESTPORT — After a proposal for a six-story apartment building with “affordable” units on Wilton Road was unanimously rejected last February, an appeal by the project’s developer has now been definitively shot down in court.

Garden Homes Management, a Stamford-based real estate company that first presented its plan to Westport’s Planning and Zoning Commission in January 2016, lost an appeal in May of P&Z’s denial of its plan. As the final nail in the coffin, the state Appellate Court rejected Garden Homes’ petition for certification of the Superior Court ruling at the end of July.

The 48-unit building was proposed to have 30 percent affordable units at 122 Wilton Road along the Saugatuck River. The commission explained its rejection on Feb. 4, 2016, by citing environmental, safety, traffic and procedural concerns; Garden Homes requested a reversal and $26,500 reimbursement from state Superior Court when it initially filed a lawsuit against P&Z last year.

Town Attorney Ira Bloom, on behalf of the P&Z Commission, filed a brief arguing against the Appellate Court taking on an appeal, saying the standards for the court to take on the case were not met and the state Superior Court decision was legally sound with a correct analysis of 8-30g law, the regulation that governs affordable housing.

“The commission certainly is very pleased that their hard work on this case was upheld. They cited environmental concerns and fire concerns and those were basically upheld by the trial court decision in May, so we all were quite pleased with that decision,” Bloom said. “And now, of course, the Appellate Court is not taking the appeal, so we’re of course very satisfied with that also.

“The commission and its staff and the outside consultants that were hired by the town all worked very hard on this case,” he said.

In state Superior Court Judge Marshall Berger Jr.’s May 25 ruling, he concluded the P&Z Commission “properly reviewed the environmental impact of Garden Homes’ proposal and denied the application under 8-30g (g),” and noted a zoning commission’s decision is upheld if one reason for its action is supported.

Earlier in his decision, Berger noted Garden Homes at one point did not allow P&Z reasonable time to review changes to the plan regarding its concerns, or sufficient detailed information, and that an alternative plan it offered was not compliant under 8-30g.

“With perhaps more cooperation and compromise, it might have been resolved favorably for both the developer and the community,” he wrote.

With the Appellate Court’s decision, the current appeal is over, Bloom said. What Garden Homes may attempt with the property in the future is still unknown.

Garden Homes Management did not return requests for comment.