Housing Committee Elects New Chair as Wilton’s 8-30j Affordable Housing Plan Takes Shape

Station Place, an apartment building on Old Danbury Rd. near the Wilton train station, opened in 2017 with 30% of the units designated for affordable housing (photo: Brickwalk Capital)

Wilton’s Housing Committee met last night, Monday, Dec. 13. The meeting featured updates and discussion on several fronts related to the increasingly ubiquitous topic of Wilton’s housing, as well as a change in leadership.

Committee Chair John Kelly Steps Down

“For a variety of reasons, I’m going to need to no longer be the chair for this committee,” Kelly told the committee.

Kelly has led the committee since its inception in Jan. 2021, with ambitious goals derived from Wilton’s Plan of Conservation and Development to create an inventory of Wilton’s housing supply and assess housing needs, including affordable housing and multi-family housing.

Kelly did not offer details on his decision to step down, but will remain as a member of the committee.

Kelly went on to say that Steven Parrinello, a commercial real estate finance professional who only recently joined the committee, had agreed to be nominated for the chairperson’s role.

After Kelly formally nominated Parrinello, the committee members voted unanimously to approve the new leader.

As a candidate for his initial appointment to the committee, Parrinello wrote, “I believe I can make an impact by joining the Housing Committee whereby I’d evaluate, define and monitor the need for diverse and affordable housing options for Wilton with the ultimate goal of attracting a diverse group of new residents at various income levels and life stages, all while maintaining Wilton’s aesthetic character and abundant natural environment for all residents.”

Parrinello will assume the position of chair for the committee — which also includes members David RintoulBettye RagognettiSuzanne Wakeen and Ryan Sullivan — effective immediately.

Housing Inventory Update

Parrinello will pick up the reins as the committee continues to grapple with its key task of creating an inventory of existing housing types.

As the committee discussed Monday evening, developing a comprehensive, accurate inventory has proven quite challenging. While a count of single-family homes is readily available, other types of housing are less easily identified. For one reason, there is no single source of data when it comes to accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, in town.

Kelly hopes the inventory will eventually reveal that Wilton does in fact have some “affordable” housing available, even if it’s not qualified under the 8-30g affordable housing statute.

But as Parrinello pointed out, some of the data the committee reviewed at the meeting — which included a review of MLS rental listings over the past 10 years — has not yet revealed much affordable inventory.

“Outside of the big apartment complexes we already know about, there is not much being rented [at] what might be classified as affordable,” Parrinello said.

Wilton’s 8-30j Affordable Housing Plan

[Editor’s note: 8-30g refers to the Connecticut General Statute (CGS) that allows developers to pursue housing projects without meeting local planning and zoning requirements in municipalities where less than 10% of the housing stock is affordable. CGS Sec. 8-30j sets forth a requirement for all municipalities to have a plan to increase affordable housing.]

Kelly updated the committee on the Town’s progress on its 8-30j plan for affordable housing.

As the 8-30j statute states:

“At least once every five years, each municipality shall prepare or amend and adopt an affordable housing plan for the municipality. Such plan shall specify how the municipality intends to increase the number of affordable housing developments in the municipality.”

Town Planner Michael Wrinn is leading Wilton’s work on the 8-30j plan as part of a regional effort being organized by WestCOG, the Western Connecticut Council of Governments, a regional agency representing 18 municipalities, including Wilton.

Kelly indicated he had reviewed preliminary work-in-progress on the plan, which he described as “pretty robust” and “encouraging,” but did not mention any plan details specific to Wilton that have been finalized.

Town-Owned New St. Properties

When the Housing Committee began its inventory of Town-owned properties, it considered two, Town-owned, residential properties on New St. as “probably the most promising candidate[s] for potential housing development,” as Kelly has previously stated.

Those two properties are located in Georgetown at 7 New St. (also known as 872 Danbury Rd.) and 31 New StExploratory work is underway to assess the number of potential units, topographical constraints, sewer access, and other issues that could impact development on the site.

Kelly indicated he believes the 8-30j plan “ideally would include showcasing of the New St. project” as a prime example of the Town’s affordable housing opportunity potential.

Kelly’s comments are somewhat at odds with the position recently taken by Wilton’s Historic District and Historic Property Commission (HDHP). Allison Sanders, chair of the HDHP, recently made a public appeal to Town leaders with great concern about the potential redevelopment — or overdevelopment — of the New St. properties for a large-scale multi-family complex.

But members of the HDHP may be in the minority, as other town officials do support exploring how feasible the idea is, including Wrinn and the Board of Selectmen. At their Aug. 2 meeting, members of the BOS unanimously approved Wrinn engaging a professional assessment of the development potential for the two parcels.