PAWCATUCK — The developer of a proposed affordable housing complex plans to construct sidewalks along the property’s frontage at 126 S. Broad St., an unusual move since sidewalks are not a requirement for the project.
Birchwood Farms, formerly known as Stonington Village, will also build sidewalks along the northwest side of its 1,000-foot access road, said Harry Heller, an attorney with Heller, Heller & McCoy in Uncasville, who represented the developer, AJ Holdings LLC, of Baltic, Conn., at a special Economic Development Commission meeting Tuesday at the Pawcatuck Fire Station.
“It will be, rather than an apartment house type of setting, this is going to be a community setting with its own community road, sidewalks and ample yard area to provide a different quality of living than you would find in typical multifamily housing,” said Heller.
The 40-unit housing complex, comprised of 20 duplexes on a 25-acre site, came before the Planning and Zoning Commission on Feb. 5 for a public hearing but the commission continued the proceedings to March 19, citing incomplete information on the application.
The Economic Development Commission scheduled the meeting Tuesday to learn more details about the project. About six members of the public and five commission members attended the meeting.
The developer, AJ Holdings, is owned by brothers Andrew Hastedt and Joseph Hastedt III, both of Baltic.
The project falls under the state’s 8-30-G affordable housing statute, which exempts the complex from local zoning.
The property is zoned as R-80, meaning 80,000-square-foot or 1.8-acre lots, which is considered low-density, but the developer is allowed to build at a higher density under the statute.
If Stonington, where 6 percent of the housing is considered affordable, had met the state’s mandate of 10 percent per town, it would be exempt from 8-30-G projects. If the town wanted to stop the project, it would have to prove in court that the project would negatively affect residents’ health and safety.
Under the statute, the affordable housing units will be classified as “set-asides” because 30 percent, or 12 units, will be set aside for as affordable for at least 40 years. The units will not be subsidized or considered low-income because the tenants must earn enough to pay the assigned rent.
Eligibility on the affordable units is based on Stonington’s median income, which Heller said was $81,000.
Six of the affordable units will be rented to those who earn 60 percent or less of the town’s median income, or $48,600. These units will rent at $908 per month, plus utilities estimated at $200 per month.
The other six affordable units will be rented to those who earn 80 percent or less of the town’s median income, or $64,800. These units will rent at $1,228 per month, plus utilities estimated at $200 per month.
After nearly an hour of learning about the details of the project, Kevin Bowdler, a member of the commission, brought the subject back to sidewalks and commended the developer on his plan.
“I think that what we’re trying to do is to get more sidewalks in Stonington, more bike paths, to get more connectivity so that people can walk,” he said. “I think that one component is potentially as important a selling point to Planning and Zoning as the rest of the project.”
Steve Capizzano, who owns Capizzano Olive Oils & Vinegars at 5 Coggswell St. in Pawcatuck, expressed concern about installing sidewalks piecemeal along South Broad Street, where many residents travel on foot next to swift traffic.
“If a sidewalk leads to no place, it’s not a safe sidewalk,” he said. “As we all know it’s a very dangerous section to walk along that section and we need to ask the questions in a way that gives a better answer than ‘Let’s just do it and hope that the sidewalks develop.’ Let’s not hope for it, let’s work on it.”
Bowdler said he recently asked Jason Vincent, director of planning for Stonington, about the installation of sidewalks along the street and learned that a piecemeal approach could be the way to start the process.
“His response was interesting. If you say we’re not going to do something unless we get the whole sidewalk done, it will never happen,” Bowdler said. “But what does happen is when you build little bits, then you get the impetus for the next bit and the next bit, but if you don’t start it will never happen.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, David Hammond, who chairs the commission, said it would send a letter to the Planning and Zoning Commission in support of the project.
The project’s public hearing before the Planning and Zoning Commission will continue on March 19 at 7 p.m. at Mystic Middle School.