East Lyme hearing covers proposed changes to affordable housing rules

East Lyme - The Zoning Commission held a public hearing Thursday on proposed changes to the town's zoning regulations governing affordable housing districts.

The town was required to review its regulations following a 2011 Superior Court decision by Judge Stephen F. Frazzini regarding a 2005 application by Landmark Development to develop affordable housing in part of Oswegatchie Hills.

Landmark had submitted amendments to zoning regulations and a zone change request along with its 2005 application.

As a result of the judge's decision, the Zoning Commission had to incorporate Landmark's revised amendments into its affordable housing zoning regulations, as well as add new requirements regarding the information needed for preliminary and final site plans, explained Town Counsel Mark Zamarka.

Ted Hollister, attorney for developer Glenn Russo, said that while he disagrees with one part of the text, he thinks he and Zamarka reached a "mutually agreeable text."

A part that Hollister disagreed with was a provision concerning wetlands, because he said that falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, not the commission's.

The law firm Geraghty & Bonnano LLC, speaking on behalf of the nonprofit organizations Save the River-Save the Hills and Friends of the Oswegatchie Hills Nature Preserve, said that the Zoning Commission should be able to exercise discretion in how much open space is required in other affordable housing applications.

"It's basically the thought that one size doesn't fit all," said Mike Dunn, a board member of the Friends group, explaining that sites close to downtown might not require as much open space as a large development of high density in an environmentally sensitive spot.

Hollister said that because of previous court rulings on affordable housing, the ultimate decision is not about open space, but rather about whether or not there is a public health and safety issue that outweighs the need for public housing.

k.drelich@theday.com

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