Commission ponders affordable housing proposal

The fate of an affordable housing proposal on James Farm Road may be decided this week. The Zoning Commission is expected to begin deliberations Wednesday night on the plan for a 116-unit affordable housing apartment complex at 795 James Farm Road.

The applicant, 500 North Ave. LLC, is seeking to build a four-story building with 35 state-designated affordable units on a 15.6-acre parcel near Peters Lane, close to the Oronoque Village residential community.

A super majority – or four of five commission members – is required for approval based on petitions submitted by property owners living near the site. A vote is possible at the May 9 meeting on the plan, which has faced strong neighborhood opposition.

The application has been filed under the state’s affordable housing law, known as 8-30g, which puts an extra burden on local land-use boards when turning down a proposal. Many 8-30g application denials are appealed to a special state court.

The developer has emphasized the town needs affordable housing units, the land is zoned for residential use, most of the land would remain undeveloped and the developer would pay to bring sewer and water lines to the location, potentially benefiting nearby residents.

Opponents have said the land is zoned for single-family homes, is out of place for the neighborhood, could harm the environment and would increase traffic. They’ve questioned the integrity of a long retaining wall needed to create a flat area for the building and the ability of fire trucks to maneuver on-site.

The property is across the street from Alexandra Drive and Candlewood Road, includes overhead power lines and a gas pipeline, has wetlands away from the actual development site, and borders the town-owned Roosevelt Forest.

The parcel drops off sharply from the road, requiring the use of substantial fill to create a flat development site near the road.

The Zoning Commission previously denied the applicant’s requests for a large multi-family complex with some affordable units at the site, with at least one appeal still pending in court.

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