Ideas for affordable housing get consideration in North Stonington

North Stonington - Members of the Planning and Zoning Commission discussed several prospects for much-needed affordable housing in town at their regular meeting Thursday night.

Zoning Enforcement Officer and Senior Planner Juliet Leeming made a slideshow presentation of six University of Connecticut landscape architecture students' site design proposals for a 100-acre piece of land off Wintechog Hill Road, about 2 miles from Foxwoods Resort Casino. The land was gifted to the town about a year ago.

Leeming said while there was no discussion at the time of what exactly the land would be used for, the Affordable Housing Commission asked that the town consider using it for affordable housing, which represents only 0.89 percent of the housing stock in North Stonington - far less than the state-mandated 10 percent.

"I had an idea about how to use the space and wanted to kind of incorporate the goals and objectives of more than one commission and come with a creative plan for the parcel," Leeming said.

Instead of committing to a planning consultant and paying expensive fees, Leeming said she reached out to the UConn students for a "cheaper and more creative" way of illustrating some of her ideas as a concept rather than a set-in-stone plan. She said the commission paid the six students $500 in all to create, in four weeks, their own site designs.

In addition to including affordable housing, Leeming asked the students to design plenty of open space as well as agriculture and mixed-use space for community use. The plans also attempted to stay true to the rural character of the town.

While no decisions were made based on the site designs, the discussion represented the latest turn in the town's attempts to bring more affordable housing into the picture. Some commission members expressed interest in applying for a state grant to research the feasibility of or begin planning an affordable housing development on the land, but others questioned the necessity.

"I don't think it's the town's responsibility to provide and finance affordable housing," said commission member Ann Brown, who said the land is "lovely as it is" and that there is no need to rush into development.

Mary Ann Ricker, co-chairwoman of the Affordable Housing Commission, attended the meeting and disagreed with Brown's idea of "rushing."

"How many years have we been saying that about affordable housing?" Ricker sad. "A long time. In my estimation, it's time to move forward on affordable housing."

The commission also officially received an application to subdivide a 55-acre piece land on Lake of Isles Road to create an 18-lot affordable housing development. The application came from Peter Gardner of Green Falls Associates LLC in Gales Ferry, and Leeming said the development would be made up entirely of single-family homes.

A public hearing on the plan for the Lake of Isles property is scheduled for Jan. 3.

a.isaacs@theday.com

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