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    Monday, February 26, 2024

    Stonington to pursue affordable housing moratorium

    Stonington ― The Board of Selectmen announced the town will ask the state to approve a pause on affordable housing requirements here.

    First Selectman Danielle Chesebrough said on Wednesday that the town will apply to the state for a four-year moratorium on the state law to give the town time to create and implement policies to increase its affordable housing stock.

    If the application is approved, the town would be required to demonstrate progress in creating affordable housing, but it would be able to reject affordable housing development applications.

    “If there’s a moratorium, then a builder can’t come in and say, ‘Well, you have to approve it,’” said Selectwoman June Strunk on Wednesday.

    This would not be the first time the town tried to create a plan. In 2021, the town began creating a plan but one year later the Planning and Zoning Commission gutted the recommendations of the initial proposal after resident opposition. Residents in Pawcatuck have complained that their section of town has been the location of all the town’s new affordable housing projects.

    Under general statute 8-30g, the state’s affordable housing law, in towns with less than 10% affordable housing — Stonington has 6% — development applications can only be denied for public health or safety reasons, and even then, the concerns must outweigh the need for affordable housing.

    Affordable housing is housing that is affordable to people who earn 80% or less of the area median income.

    An individual earning 80% of the area’s median income, $64,200 per year, would pay $1,500 per month in rent.

    She said the moratorium would offer the community the opportunity to look at different ways to promote affordable housing that are more in line with the community’s identity and its needs than the one-size-fits-all state law approach.

    “It’s understandable why (the state) did it, but you can see where it doesn’t work,” Chesebrough said, pointing to some developments in town where she and other town representatives advocated for less density and more green space, but developers ignored the requests.

    Chesebrough said that beside offering incentives to developers and and encouraging them to make changes, the town has no ability to force those changes. That is why, she said, town officials began talking about applying for the moratorium.

    “The 8-30g moratorium is something we have considered in the past, but it never felt like the right time, but now that the Town Meeting approved the Housing Opportunities Commission, we felt like it was the time when we could discuss this,” said Chesebrough.

    Chesebrough said the Housing Opportunities Commission voted to approve the application be sent to the state, and she consulted with the Department of Human Services, Town Planner Clifton Iler and Economic and Community Development Director Susan Cullen among others before the final decision was made.

    “We can now have a real conversation as a community — what does housing diversity and inclusivity look like for Stonington,” she said.

    Chesebrough said that there are a number of steps in the process, and she did not know how long state approval would take, but the town seems to meet the criteria.

    The potential moratorium would not apply to any proposals submitted prior to approval.

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