STONINGTON — With several stipulations, the Conservation Commission approved a 40-unit housing complex Monday that would include 12 affordable units for a 25-acre site at 126 S. Broad St.
The developer and property owner, AJ Holdings LLC of Baltic, Conn., has applied for a 22-lot subdivision, tentatively named Stonington Village. The company is owned by brothers Andrew Hastedt, who attended the meeting, and Joseph Hastedt III.
The proposal includes an existing two-family house on the site that will become part of the complex and 19 new duplexes. The project would require the construction of a 1,000-foot private road terminating as a cul-de-sac. The development would be served by municipal water and sewer.
The site, northeast of Stonington High School and south of Route 1, contains about 18 acres of wetlands that the developer is proposing to convey to the town as open space. The wetlands angles south of the project area.
“The Town of Stonington owns abutting land and would be a logical steward of the property, but we’re open to other suggestions like the Stonington Land Trust,” said Harry Heller, an attorney with Heller, Heller & McCoy in Uncasville, who represented AJ Holdings at the meeting.
Bob Russo, soil scientist and ecologist with CLA Engineers Inc., in Norwich, said the wetlands were dominated by red maples and were not characterized as an Atlantic white cedar swamp, which would be considered an imperiled habitat under the state's classification.
Heller said the site was also home to the eastern ribbon snake, an endangered species. Following parameters from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection that would protect the snake’s habitat, the project would restrict activity along the upland side of the property between April and October, he said.
Heller said the property was being subdivided in case the owners needed to sell some of the properties in the future.
“It’s just to keep options open in case he needs to liquidate some or all of the units,” Heller said. “Right now they’re planning to hold all of them as their retirement.”
If a lot was sold, it would remain within the affordability covenants for 40 years, Heller said.
The project falls under the state 8-30-G affordable housing statute, which allows developers to override local zoning regulations if less that 10 percent of a town's housing stock is affordable. Currently 6 percent of Stonington’s housing stock is classified as affordable. If the town wanted to reject the application, it would have to prove in court that the project would negatively affect town residents’ health and safety.
Heller said the project is required to provide 15 percent of its units to people who earn 60 percent or less of the area's median income, and 15 percent of the units to those who earn 80 percent or less of the median income. Stonington’s median income is about $75,000.
Stuart Cole, who chairs the commission, recommended that the project include sidewalks.
“As more and more residential projects get developed, the sidewalk is definitely a necessity,” he said.
Ben Baldwin, commission member, also said the name "Stonington Village" was confusing.
“I think of that as the area of Stonington outside of the borough,” he said.
The other commission members agreed with Baldwin. Heller said the name could be changed.
The commission approved the project with stipulations that sidewalks be built and that signage would be installed to delineate the wetlands area.
The project will have a public hearing before the Planning and Zoning Commission Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Mystic Middle School.