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Wilton Road Developer Sues, Says P&Z Prejudged Plan

By James Lomuscio

The developer denied a 19-unit, housing complex at 122 Wilton Road Jan. 10 is suing Westport under the state’s affordable housing statute 8-30g.

Richard K. Freedman, owner of Stamford-based Garden Homes Management Corp., filed an appeal with the Judicial District Stamford-Norwalk, demanding Westport’s Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) appear in Superior Court on Tuesday, Feb. 19.

This is the second time Garden Homes has filed suit against the town, using 8-30g. The statute allows developers to override local zoning regulations if a municipality does not have 10 percent of its housing stock deemed affordable, which Westport does not.

The first appeal was Feb. 4, 2016 after the P&Z denied a proposed 48-unit complex at the same 1.16-acre site fronting the Saugatuck River. In May of 2017, Hartford Superior Court Marshall Berger dismissed Garden Homes’ suit, saying the town had acted properly.

“I’m nothing if not persistent,” Freedman said about his latest appeal.

He argues the P&Z was biased against his latest, scaled-down project.

“The revised plans were significantly smaller,” Freedman said about the latest site plan and a text amendment submitted to the P&Z on June 13, 2018.

He said that in addition to the project being scaled back from 48 to 19 units, the recent proposal: reduced the building size from 42,532 to 20,078-square feet; dropped the building’s height from seven to four stories; reduced the building’s footprint from 9,515 to 6,102-square feet; reduced an impervious area from 17,920 to 8,471-square feet; and included an additional fire access and staging area.

Environmental issues and fire access factored into Berger’s dismissal of Garden Homes’ 2017 suit. Fire access remained an issue in the latest pitch. Fire Marshal Nathaniel Gibbons, for one, said the planned structure only has one side of access for removing residents via a bucket ladder in the event of a fire.

“They were prejudiced from the moment I walked in the room (with the new plan),” said Freedman. “(Commissioner) Chip Stephens must have said a dozen times, ‘no change.’ That was the falsehood propagated.”

Freedman also said that the P&Z paid little notice to his offer to make 60 percent of the units, 12 out of the 19, affordable if the project were approved.

His other proposal was that if the commission denied the project and he won in court, only 30 percent of the units would be listed as affordable.

Freedman said bought the land in 2017. It had already been approved for a 7,300-square-foot home.

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