Waterford — The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission met virtually on Tuesday to review the draft affordable housing plan which will be presented to residents at a public hearing on May 10.
Municipalities have until June 1 to adopt a plan required by the state under Public Law 17-170. The plan, which must be updated every five years, should outline how the municipality intends to increase its number of affordable housing developments. According to the state’s definition, housing is considered affordable if households earning 80% or less of the area’s median income spend no more than 30% of their income on housing.
Glenn Chalder, a consultant hired by the city of Planimetrics, compiled a list of comments from residents in a report for possible revisions following the public information meeting of March 22. The commission had the opportunity to discuss these comments on Tuesday.
During the discussion, Commissioner Karen Barnett raised public comment suggesting partnering with nonprofits such as Habitat for Humanity or veterans housing. She asked how the commission would go about it.
Chalder said it would be a great opportunity to partner with nonprofits and that Habitat has experience, but the money for the projects would need to be generated. He said it would be difficult to identify the details of the partnership, but suggested adding it to the plan as a strategy.
Ken Petrini, a member of the commission, admitted to having trouble with the general idea of the plan and the term “affordable housing”. He asked what the plan offers the community and developers, and what it will serve for the long term.
Chalder said that for many years Connecticut had not focused on housing and prices had skyrocketed to a point people could not afford. He said this plan focuses only on housing and people and that the commission will refer to this document for strategies.
Planning director Abby Piersall said the commission may consider using the plan as a “tool” for adapting regulations, but the plan will not dictate individual cases or developments.
Another point of discussion was the maps on pages 32 and 33. One page shows where affordable developments would be supported with utilities and walkable to nearby services, and where they would not be supported with areas wetlands, floodplains, etc. The other page shows a map of potential development sites and criteria. The commission discussed whether to merge them.
The commission also discussed the possibility of reducing the eight pages of community survey results and updating information on how the city could obtain a four-year moratorium on the housing appeals process. enacted by the state in 1989, often referred to as General Law Section 8-30g, in which courts can overrule local zoning denials of affordable housing proposals.
The commission evidently decided to make three modifications to the proposed plan for the public hearing among the many revisions suggested by Chalder. This includes moving the maps to pages 32 and 33; the addition of a partnership strategy with non-profit organizations; and delete the tables on pages 17 and 18 that illustrated statements already made on the number of affordable units in the city.
Chalder added that the plan should be revised with updated income data when it becomes available from the federal Department of Urban Development and the state’s Affordable Housing Appeals List, which details the percentage of affordable housing in each municipality.
Piersall said any other suggested revisions, such as factual updates, would be presented in written form for public review before the hearing and would be discussed in detail at the hearing.
The Planning and Zoning Commission will hold the public hearing on the proposed draft Affordable Housing Plan in person at City Hall on Tuesday, May 10 at 6:30 p.m. The proposed revised plan can be viewed at bit.ly/wtahplan22.