Wilton’s current moratorium on affordable housing development requirements, as set by state statute 8-30g, expires on Dec. 28, 2019. Looking toward that date, town officials often remind one another that alternative housing is a topic that can’t be ignored, especially as part of the process of this year’s update of the Plan of Conservation and Development.

At last night’s meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z), First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice spoke to the commission members about a different possible approach toward meeting state requirements on alternative housing options.

The 8-30g statute states that if a municipality does not have 10% of its available housing options determined to be affordable, then a developer who proposes a project with affordable housing units can challenge any denial of an application. The only grounds on which a town can try to justify its denial is if it can show the development is a threat to public health and safety.

Vanderslice shared an account of a successful proposal that was recently approved in neighboring Darien, an approach she called “creative and meaningful.” There, a developer came forward with an application to incorporate housing units for adults with disabilities to meet the state’s requirements for affordable units.

She submitted a letter (below) to accompany her remarks to the commission at the meeting.

As she explains, developer Dave Genovese proposed a mixed use development project that offers 116 multi-family residential apartments in addition to retail, restaurant and office space. While the residences are meant to appeal to downsizing empty-nesters, Genovese included only two affordable units onsite–but according to Vanderslice, he also proposed to “build 12 100% affordable housing units for adults with disabilities at an offsite location.”

Darien’s Planning and Zoning Commission created a new zone to permit such house to make the proposal possible. Vanderslice called it a “win-win” idea for that town, and suggests Wilton could take the same approach. In addition, she told Wilton’s P&Z commissioners that it’s an idea that might meld well with the town’s adaptive use regulations and interest in preserving historical buildings.

“Wilton has a need for the exact same housing. I imagine that some of the historical structures we would like to preserve in Wilton might serve as a location for such housing,” she writes.

It’s worth noting that Genovese has worked in Wilton before; his company, Baywater Properties, developed the Wilton Crossing commercial office space located at 195 Danbury Rd.

In an email to GOOD Morning Wilton, Vanderslice noted that FYI, she has broached the idea with Wilton Public Schools‘ superintendent Dr. Kevin Smith and Wilton Social Services director Sarah Heath about the need, as well as with Historic District and Historic Properties Commission chair Allison Sanders about the approach could be a way to repurpose historical structures.