Ledyard - The Zoning Commission voted last week to approve the partial conversion of Stonegate Village into an affordable housing development, keeping in place the 55-and-over age restriction previously contested by the property's owner, Third Garden Park LP.
Commission Chairman Eric Treaster said the commission approved the owner's latest proposal Aug. 9 with 23 conditions, the first two of which maintain the 10 Flintlock Road community's age restriction in both the old Stonegate Village and the new affordable housing development, Ledyard Commons.
Stonegate Village will consist of 58 sites out of the original 80-site community, while Ledyard Commons will have the remaining 22.
"The Zoning Commission felt that the age restriction was important," Treaster said.
Mark Branse, who represents Third Garden Park, said he will be appealing the decision, claiming the age restriction on Ledyard Commons is too harsh a requirement. "We can't sell the age-restricted units. There's no market. And certainly not in Ledyard," he said. "There just isn't a demand."
Third Garden Park's latest zoning application proposed that two parks be created from the 80-site park, with Stonegate Village keeping the age restriction and Ledyard Commons having none. This proposal amended the original one, approved by the commission in May but invoking the ire of Stonegate Village residents, which called for converting all of Stonegate Village into affordable housing and doing away with the age restriction entirely.
The commission voted unanimously in May to move forward with the affordable housing conversion but keep in place the age restriction. The commission reached its latest decision following several public hearings, the last of which was held just prior to the Zoning Commission's Aug. 9 meeting.
By state law, Third Garden Park has 15 days to appeal following the Aug. 11 publication of the decision. The appeal will go to Superior Court in New Britain, Branse said, where a judge will hold a pretrial conference at some point in the next couple of months.
"Those pretrial conferences do frequently produce settlements," Branse said. "We'll certainly be open to that."
Mike Cherry, chairman of the Planning Commission, said he is expecting such an appeal but hopes the town and Third Garden Park will negotiate a settlement before anything is dictated by a court. He is unsure what that settlement may be.
"The town needs to sit down with our attorney and decide what our position's going to be as it goes to the courts," Cherry said.
Only about a third of the 22 units in the proposed Ledyard Commons will actually be affordable housing, as required by the state. "Affordable housing" is a term applied to homes that are sold or rented to a buyer whose income is less than or equal to 60 percent or 80 percent of the local or statewide median income, whichever is less.
Treaster said the town is required by the state to approve affordable housing applications if the town does not currently meet the 10 percent minimum stock of affordable housing. Only demonstrated risks to public safety would prevent the commission from approving such applications.
Ledyard has only 4.7 percent affordable housing, and the addition of seven affordable units would bump the percentage up by only "maybe one-tenth of 1 percent," Treaster said.