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Wednesday, July 15 News

Fairfield TPZ approves plans for downtown 5-story apartment

FAIRFIELD — The Plan and Zoning Commission approved plans for a 5-story apartment building this week.

Held via teleconference, on Tuesday, commissioners voted 6 to 1 to approve the plans, with Commissioner Kathryn Braun as the lone dissenter. She voiced concern over the impact the building would have on parking.

“There’s public parking spaces right nearby — for commuters,” Braun said. “I see that being filled by overflow from this development, creating a traffic and parking nightmare in that area.”

In a previous hearing on the plans, John Fallon, the attorney for Fairfield Station Lofts LLC, said the apartment building at 78 Unquowa Place would be 31,298 square feet with 27 parking spaces. He said the property is a 0.32 acre lot, which is currently occupied by a single family home.

Braun also said she had concerns about access to the complex in case of emergency services, referring to the fire and police department’s review of the plans.

According to Planning Director Jim Wednt, the police department said it was concerned with lack of parking while the fire department requested the developer pay to move the utility lines for the property underground. He said the fire department’s approval was not contingent on the developer doing so.

“If we had to approve it at all, I would certainly want to focus on getting those utility lines moved,” Braun said. “I’m underwhelmed with the information we’ve been provided for safety. So, I would vote no based on the information we have.”

The application for the apartment building fell under 8-30g. A state regulation, 8-30g, allows developers of affordable housing to ignore municipal laws and regulations in order to get such housing into communities with fewer affordable units than the state recommends — in Fairfield’s case, about 10 percent. About 2.6 percent of Fairfield housing is classified as affordable, Fallon has said.

According to Fallon, four units would be reserved for people earning less than 60 percent of the statewide median income and four reserved for those earning less than 80 percent of statewide median income. He said the developer strongly believes that all the units, not just the affordable component, will be attractive to renters because of their location.

Commission Chair Mathew Wagner noted that the the commission was limited in what conditions they could attach to the approval because of 8-30g. In order for a commission to deny an application, it would need to demonstrate the development would pose a risk to the health, safety and welfare of the community.

The commission approved the plans with the request the developer use its “best efforts” to relocate the utility lines. In order to do so, Fairfield Station Lofts LLC would have to request permission from United Illuminating Company.