GUILFORD – After nearly nine months of back and forth between the town and the developer of a 100-unit affordable housing complex off Interstate 95, the Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the site plan despite reluctance from some commissioners that the project could have been designed better.
A four-story housing development with two, 50-unit buildings is uncharacteristic for Guilford, a town dominated by single-family homes, with just 2.4 percent of its housing stock considered “affordable” by the state.
The project, located on Hubbard Road, will include 30 units restricted to people with low incomes. The developer – Connecticut Affordable Housing Initiative, a company registered to James McMahon – applied under the 8-30g state statute that allows housing developments with an affordable component to bypass local zoning regulations unless there are concerns for public health and safety.
In contrast to some other affordable housing projects on the shoreline, the project did not face vocal public opposition. Unlike two recent projects that drew public outcry in neighboring Madison, the planned Guilford development would be located in an industrial area, rather than a residential area.
The project faced scrutiny from the Inland Wetland Commission and Planning and Zoning Commission, each of which asked for conditions before approving the project – including ongoing monitoring of the septic treatment system, and that sidewalks be extended along the driveway entrance to Hubbard Road.
Guilford Town Planner Jamie Stein said the town engineer was in contact with the developer about how that sidewalk could connect in the future to any extension of sidewalks the town makes down Hubbard Road.
Commission Chair Scott Edmond said it was important for Guilford to gain the affordable housing the development offers, and that the back and forth between town staff and the developer allowed them to come to a good agreement.
Commissioner Phil Johnson said he believes there is more that could have been done to make it a better project. He said it didn’t make sense that the two buildings didn’t have a centralized waste disposal system inside.
Instead, residents – many of whom are expected to be elderly – will need to leave the building and walk across the parking lot to dispose of their garbage in dumpsters. Johnson also questioned the benefit of having so many one-bedroom units instead of a more diverse housing stock.
“I know we can’t say no to it on a lot of levels,” Johnson said. “But I am going to voice my criticism that I think this could have a lot better design. But it is what it is.”