RIDGEFIELD — The City Project affordable housing project could face quite substantial rewriting after discussion and critique of the document by elected officials and residents.

Toward the end of a more than four-hour Selectman board meeting on Wednesday, board members decided the proposal was not yet ready for a vote and might even need a lot more editing.

Each board member was asked to submit comments and suggested changes to the plan to head coach Rudy Marconi. He’ll pull them all together, and then the plan will be discussed in more detail at the city’s next board meeting on September 7.

The plan, which was due to be submitted to the Office of State Policy and Management on June 1, is among requirements of state laws that encourage cities with less than 10% of their housing stock considered “affordable” to further develop. Affordable housing is defined as costing less than 30% of the income of a household earning 80% or less of the area median income.

Ridgefield’s plan was developed by its Affordable Housing Committee and approved by the city’s planning and zoning commission on July 26 by a 7-1 vote.

One of the changes requested by selectors at Wednesday’s meeting was to remove from the plan the total number of housing units – 125 – that the city said it could create over the next five years.

“It’s a big number and I wouldn’t want to be held to it,” coach Barbara Manners said.

She suggested the plan could include information about the individual units the city hopes to achieve, but not the total.

“I’m very uncomfortable with the conclusive total,” she said.

Affordable Housing Committee Chairman David Goldenberg said that when determining the 125 figure, committee members looked at whatever they thought was a “reasonable estimate”.

“And we found a bunch of individual numbers. And then we added those numbers up to get 125 units over the next five years – of all types, not in one place, but a lot of units,” he said.

Another criticism came from Manners, who said there was a lot of “narrative” in the shot.

“They weren’t asking for all the backgrounds and all the demographics and stuff like that. I don’t have a problem with that but I understand why a lot of people would prefer to see it because the narrative isn’t really part of the plan,” she said.

Coach Bob Hebert agreed.

“There are opinions in there,” he said. “We just need factual data.”

Goldenberg said Thursday that the narrative contained in the plan was based on guidelines from the state.

“They wanted to see the demographic context. They wanted to see the community’s vision statement. … That’s why this stuff is in there,” he said, adding that there are people who are going to oppose the plan “no matter how you do it.”

More than half a dozen residents at the meeting expressed their disapproval of the plan, including Andrea Beebe, who said: “No one I spoke to is against affordable housing. But we are against this plan.

She said she was worried about the plan’s future implementation, even if it initially sits untouched on a shelf.

“You can’t put the genie back in the bottle,” she said. “So I’d like to see a ‘no’ vote on that. Go back, streamline the plan and present it to a community that wants a good affordable housing plan.

“Thousands of Hours”

On Thursday, Goldenberg said committee members had spent “thousands” of hours working on the plan in the nearly two years since the city began taking steps to create one.

“Two years ago now, we hired a consultant to start the process. We started the process with research, then on November 8, 2020, we had a public meeting,” he said.

Marconi said there are many factors to consider when planning affordable housing in a city.

“Right now we have to be concerned about our land and what we’re going to do here and I recognize there’s a lot of people who are upset… It’s taken a kind of political back and forth, which is unfortunate,” he said. “But I would like to see us as elected members of the Affordable Housing Committee sit down and be able to come up with a plan that the people of Ridgefield agree to and move it forward.”

While there is no monetary penalty to the city for not submitting a plan by the state deadline, Goldenberg, the issue is more about the city’s reputation.

“People at the state level and people all around look at Ridgefield and say, ‘Why can’t they act together on this? So that’s the only penalty – it’s to our reputation,” he said.

“Important not to rush the process”

However, Ridgefield is far from the only town in the state that has not submitted its affordable housing plan. According to the state’s municipal housing inventory, as of August 15, nearly 60 cities and towns — out of a total of 169 — had yet to submit plans.

A full list of municipalities, along with the dates their plans were submitted, can be viewed on the Office of State Policy and Management website by clicking “Inventory of Municipal Affordable Housing Plans.” In addition, the state website contains a link to the municipal websites where each plan can be found.

Jocelyn Ayer, director of the Center of Housing Opportunity in Litchfield County, said she knows many municipalities that have not been able to meet the June 1 deadline but are working “seriously” on adoption. of a plan no later than the end of the year.

“It’s important not to rush the process of developing and adopting an affordable housing plan to allow ample time for public outreach and feedback before adoption,” Ayer said.

Regardless of how long it takes for the city of Ridgefield to approve its plan, Goldenberg said members of the Affordable Housing Committee plan to stay heavily involved to see it come to fruition.

“If we don’t stick to this, nothing will be done,” he said. “So we’re going to stick with this until the end.”

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