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City Would Consider Buying Land Proposed for Affordable Housing

'At this point, all options are on the table,' says Mayor Ben Blake about an affordable housing proposal that's angered many locals.

The proposed site at 86 Pond Point Ave. Credit: Jason Bagley
The proposed site at 86 Pond Point Ave. Credit: Jason Bagley

Mayor Ben Blake says the city would consider purchasing land proposed for affordable housing in an effort to block the application which is currently being heard before the city’s planning and zoning board.

“At this point, all options are on the table,” Blake said Wednesday, a day after hundreds of residents flocked to Milford City Hall to protest for a second time the proposed 23-unit, one-and-a-half story complex at 86 Pond Point Ave.

Pond Point Avenue residents and those on neighboring streets say the development would only worsen flooding issues in the area, add to congestion on an already dangerous street and harm wildlife on the mostly-wooded site.

Blake, who took in Tuesday’s public hearing from the sidelines, said there’s “a legitimate concern” with any housing project where so many health and safety issues are raised.

“The project being proposed certainly does not fit the character of that neighborhood,” Blake said, adding that he believes there are deficiencies in the application itself.

Representatives for the developer, Colberg LLC, say a retention pond would mitigate flooding issues, state and local traffic data show minimal accidents in front of the site and there are no endangered species on the property.

It’s the planning and zoning board’s job to weigh the concerns of the public against the need for affordable housing in Milford. That is the reality of proposing a development under affordable housing state statute 8-30g.

The statute allows developers to enter towns and cities with less than 10 percent affordable housing and not be subject to local zoning laws. The housing stock considered affordable in Milford is only slightly above 6 percent.

However, there is another way out of this for the city should it decide to go that route. And that is through purchasing the 2.7-acre property. It’s something the city has done before with controversial applications, the mayor said.

In 2002, when a developer wanted to erect condominiums on the Stowe barn property, the city purchased the land. And more recently, the city bought land surrounded by farmland where a junkyard had been proposed.

At the first public hearing on the Pond Point Avenue development, attorney Danielle Bercury said the owner of the property is “willing to have a conversation” with the city about possibly purchasing the land.

tlkensington December 05, 2013 at 11:41 AM
CP and we were almost alright yesterday! I like snark and sarcasm. The nice sign you were referring to Milford didn't buy. I'm almost certain the state paid for it. Speaker of the House Jim Amann was the moving force behind the Devon Revitalization, but Senator Slossberg and (future) Representative Kim Rose had key roles too.
tlkensington December 05, 2013 at 11:42 AM
Maybe you can thank Senator Slossberg at the next meeting.
Concerned Parent December 05, 2013 at 11:48 AM
@tlk, I agree, but you could not resist in minimizing a point by exercising it through your response. As a result, you lost points in my book. Don't lower yourself by doing it because it appears you make some valid points. You should curb that sarcasm.
tlkensington December 05, 2013 at 11:58 AM
Its hard to curb my enthusiasm. Apologies. In the future less sarcasm.
Corinne Miller December 05, 2013 at 01:38 PM
The statute is the problem. It overrides the authority of the people to govern themselves at the local level. What right has the state to allow certain developers to be exempt from local zoning laws?
Fake Name December 05, 2013 at 01:44 PM
The law applies to any one who wants to develop land, not just certain developers. And how did the state get the right to trump local zoning laws? Easy, the democrats at the state level took the right while the democrats at the local level applauded the move...
Corinne Miller December 05, 2013 at 01:50 PM
Thanks for the clarification Fake Name. So then someone could also put a shopping strip mall or an office building there even though it's residentially zoned? (I'm asking in all seriousness.)
JNG December 05, 2013 at 01:58 PM
You fail to recognize that zoning authority rests with the state. In recognition of local rule, they delegate certain functions to local government. They have the right to override almost all land use functions. This prevents one town from putting its landfill next to another town's elementary school.
tlkensington December 05, 2013 at 02:06 PM
Zoning is a power that the state gave towns. It is called The Connecticut Zoning Enabling Act. It enabled towns to zone. They don't have to but if they do then they need to follow the rules set by the state. Last I heard only 2 towns don't have zoning in CT. Localities would have no authority if the state didn't allow them to have it. This means that the state isn't taking power from the town.
JNG December 05, 2013 at 02:16 PM
I believe Houston, TX exists with NO zoning at call.
Fake Name December 05, 2013 at 02:17 PM
@connie: the law we're talking about applies to affordable housing, so you couldn't use it to drop a strip mall in a residential zone...
tlkensington December 05, 2013 at 02:36 PM
In CT Bethlehem and Eastford have no zoning. JNG, you are correct that Houston doesn't have zoning.
Spoonman December 06, 2013 at 10:23 AM
Why should the city buy the property?
Concerned Parent December 06, 2013 at 11:14 AM
Just curious, what may result if this development goes forward, and despite claims from the applicant, drainage issues arise impacting area home owners. I would think there would be some litigation against the town and developer as a result.
Michael Brown December 06, 2013 at 12:02 PM
Three years ago the Heenan Drive development (just bunch of trailers) was proposed as an 8-30g project. It was denied by the Milford P&Z Board for some very good reasons - one being that the homeowners would have to drive through an industrial park to get to their house (trailer). The contractor (Lou D'Amato) went to court and won. The project has never been built, but is still viable and on the books as approved. I was told by Tom Ivers that there are actually only two 8-30g developments here in Milford; Avalon Milford on Woodmont Road and Olde Elm Close on Old Point Road. Avalon is a perfectly fine development and community (in my opinion). But the Olde Elm Close development is just a bunch of raised-ranches pushed close together. This development has *not* turned into a 'community.' The 8-30g law should be changed to make 'community' a requirement. An independent assessment could be made of each project and presented to the local boards and to the court if necessary.
tlkensington December 06, 2013 at 01:36 PM
CP, the liability you are referring do is "loss of lateral support." Look to Canfield Rubber Co. v. Leary & Co., 121 A. 283, 99 Conn. 40 (Conn. 1923) for guidance. Uses negligence as a standard. So if adjoining property owners suffer damage due to excavation then Colberg LLC could be liable. Problem here is that many properties already flood. Colberg would use that as a defense.
Local Dad December 06, 2013 at 04:20 PM
Isn't it also possible that this development would actually ease the current water problems on the adjoining properties? The developer would have to install a system for managing the water--wouldn't that help the adjoining properties that already have water issues?
JNG December 06, 2013 at 08:01 PM
The neighborhood suffering drainage woes has very little drainage infrastructure and a high water table. They have sump pumps which invariably connect into sanitary sewers. This impacts the treatment plant expenses and future capacity. Perhaps a major investment in drainage infrastructure would be monies well spent by the City. The development proposal takes care of its own drainage. It is the existing drainage that needs help.
Concerned Parent December 07, 2013 at 11:32 AM
Despite the architect during the first hearing stating they used "applied science" design a drainage solution, my question still stands. What will happen if its construction adversely impacts the residents.
tlkensington December 07, 2013 at 04:41 PM
CP, adjoining landowners have rights. You will just have to assert them in a court of law. Heck if you felt really strong about it then try to get an injunction to stop the construction if it is approved There is lateral support and nuisance law. Specifically with drainage, if it is surface water we are talking about them, "a landowner may not use or improve his land in such a way as to increase the total volume of surface water which flows from it to adjacent property, or as to discharge it or any part of it upon such property in a manner different in volume or course from its natural flow, to the substantial damage of the owner of that property. Tide Water Oil Sales Corporation v. Shimelman, 114 Conn. 182, 189-90, 158 A. 229 (1932)." The case I cited earlier in the comments is more for underground water. In fact its reasoning has been used when gas station leak chemicals that poison neighboring lands. There is also nuisance law.
Concerned Parent December 07, 2013 at 04:50 PM
@tlk...If that is the case, then there appears to be a viable option for the area residents if in fact the developer gets the green light to start construction. Do you know what would be needed to supply to the court to get an injunction?
tlkensington December 07, 2013 at 07:01 PM
“A party seeking injunctive relief has the burden of alleging and proving irreparable harm and lack of an adequate remedy at law."Tighe v. Town of Berlin , 259 Conn. 83, 87 (2002). First you would need to show an irreparable harm. This would probably require hiring engineers, hydrologists, and other experts. Not to mention hiring an attorney. Would be costly. Would also have to show that damages would not be an adequate remedy for any damage. Here you have future harm so trying to calculate damages is hard, so damages are probably inadequate. Sure this is viable, but you guys will need to do a cost benefit analysis. Could still do all this an lose in court. If it does get built and then you suffer harm then you can sue for damages. Again would be costly probably due to the nature of proving injuries. Probably would need to hire experts for this as well. The judicial branch puts together good little primers about certain issues and this is one about inunctions. http://www.jud.ct.gov/lawlib/Notebooks/Pathfinders/injunctions.pdf Here is one about surface water http://www.jud.ct.gov/lawlib/Notebooks/Pathfinders/SurfaceWater.pdf
JNG December 07, 2013 at 08:33 PM
Lateral support issues usually apply to construction which undermined the structural stability of adjoining properties. I.e. digging a foundation near a neighboring building that cause instability in the soils supporting the existing building's foundation leading to its damage or failure. Also, drainage design is applied science in the definition as applied engineering. It is correct that an area undergoing ongoing flooding will be hard pressed to prove an increase in flooding without a base line analysis of existing storm data and impacts in which to compare to future storms and impacts. That is what computer modeling is the industry standard for "applied engineering."
Concerned Parent December 07, 2013 at 10:19 PM
I have a great deal of empathy for my fellow residents whose property abuts this land.
Fake Name December 08, 2013 at 07:35 AM
@tlkensington: are you saying telling the judge that you really, really don't want affordable housing in your neighborhood followed up with a political speech from a state legislator isn't enough to get an injunction?
tlkensington December 08, 2013 at 03:19 PM
Fake, yes. They would need to show an actual harm or the high likelihood of a future harm. JNG, I'm not saying it is clear cut that loss of lateral support would apply, but lateral support is broader than what you are saying. You said, "digging a foundation near a neighboring building that cause instability in the soils supporting the existing building's foundation leading to its damage or failure." Here we could have digging a foundation that leads to increase instability in soil due to groundwater causing damage. Just need to think broader. Lateral support has been used for damages from subsistence due to ground water. Rulings are mixed but here is a law review article from 1988 that breaks things down nicely. http://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1578&context=ealr In Connecticut I cannot find any cases dealing with this. I don't see why cases dealing with lowering the water table couldn't be applied to increasing groundwater on neighboring land after improvements. It's a toss up of whether or not it will work, but it is something. Then there is the issue of how can they prove groundwater flooding is caused by the development. Sounds like lots of properties already flood from a high water table. Would need to show that any additional flooding was caused by the project and not some other natural cause. Would be difficult. Applied engineering and computer models cost money and there can be countering models are trial. Suing for surface water is easier and there is case law in Connecticut on the matter. Either way the developers need to be careful. There are a bunch of neighbors itching to take a bite out of them.
jabatti December 09, 2013 at 07:09 PM
Long Term Resident who grew up in Milford....can we leave one piece of land without a house, condo or apts? We have plenty of houses in foreclosure. Let's have builders buy those eyesores and do something to better a neighborhood. We have to have some "land" for animals and wildlife. We certainly don't need affordable income housing or condo's on Pond Point Ave. Let the condos stay in downtown Milford, where they have made a mess of, including that horrible mess on Prospect Street. Let this developer finish one project before he starts another! This developer has made a mess across town and hasn't finished that project. Cutting down trees, bull dozing and killing everything in sight. STOP! Being Greedy!
Hal DePino December 10, 2013 at 07:17 AM
^^^^^ agree with jabatti but would add to the list stores, malls, etc. Love the idea of re-purposing existing structures.
Concerned Parent December 11, 2013 at 08:53 AM
I hate to say this, but from everything I've learned so far with 8-30g and the level of latitude given to developers who simply exploit it for profit without regard for the residents, it appears the only way to stop this development is to purchase the land.
tlkensington December 11, 2013 at 09:34 AM
CP, yep. As I have been saying since early on, this would be hard to stop. Buying it is one way to stop it. If the city were to fight it then it would just cost the taxpayers more. This is also why I have felt Slossberg's involvement is insincere. She has had about ten years to try and change 8-30g. Heck in 2006 she said 8-30g was a problem in a debate. http://milforddemocrats.blogspot.com/2006/09/slossberg-lisman-debate-article-go.html But what has she done to soften it?

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