EAST HADDAM – A group of New York developers is back with plans to convert a banquet hall into 20 apartments at Banner Country Club Estates, this time with an affordable component that makes the plan more likely to be approved.
Anthony and Frank Longhitano, the owners of Banner Estates, are applying under state statute 8-30g to redevelop an empty 28,000 square-foot banquet hall into 20 one-bedroom apartments – of which six units would be income restricted.
The statute requires municipalities where less than 10 percent of the housing is “affordable” to prove that any rejection of a project is necessary to protect public health and safety. About 3 percent of the housing in East Haddam meets the definition of “affordable” – that people earning less than 80 or 60 percent of the median income don’t need to pay more than 30 percent of their income for rent.
This is the third attempt by the property owners to apply for approval from the East Haddam Planning and Zoning Commission for the project, after twice withdrawing earlier applications for zoning amendments.
Previous attempts to seek approval were opposed by current residents of Banner, who said the owners had failed to keep up the property, including failing to finish paving a road to the development. But, based on the application under 8-30g, there isn’t much the Planning and Zoning Commission can do this time, said East Haddam Land Use Administrator James Ventres.
“At this point, it’s up to the commission to say, we can’t worry about the zoning code or the lot coverage or the density and all that – all that we can say is, do they have adequate water and septic, and is there a traffic concern?” Ventres said.
The development has its own water company, so that isn’t a question, he said. Whether the septic is adequate is up to DEEP, but they have over 400 acres of property there, so that likely won’t be a problem. And the commission has previously reviewed a traffic study for 86 units at the site, so the additional 20 units isn’t likely to cause a traffic concern, he said.
“If we had a 20-lot subdivision on two-acre zoning, and somebody came in and figured out how to make that 20-lot subdivision into a 30-lot subdivision with an affordable housing component – if they met the criteria of health, water and traffic, and 30 percent of their units were affordable, the commission has to approve it [under 8-30g],” Ventres said.
Ventres said this was the first application under 8-30g in East Haddam, and he had seen claims that the development was Section 8 housing – a federal housing voucher program for people with very low incomes, mostly below 30 percent of the area median income. It is not Section 8, he said.
Only 6 units – or 30 percent – of the development would be income restricted. Three of those would be for people making 80 percent of the median income, and three would be for those making 60 percent of the median income. The median income from the area is $102,000, so an individual making about $64,000 would qualify for the lower-restricted units, Ventres said.
“We don’t pay our starting teachers that, we don’t pay our fire department that,” he said. “This is not low-income housing, it’s affordable housing. There’s a big difference.”
The developers were scheduled to present to the planning and zoning commission for a site plan approval on July 13, but asked to postpone. The commission’s next meeting is on July 27.