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Thursday, April 19 News

Board of Finance OKs affordable housing project

The Board of Finance Tuesday night endorsed a project that aims to bring about 80 new affordable apartments to New Canaan.

At the request of the New Canaan Housing Authority, the board agreed to appropriate up to $500,000 from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund for engineering design costs for the new units, which according to the housing authority's chairman, Charles Berman, would replace Millport Apartment's 18-unit complex into a denser one "without taking any more land."

"We think we'll end up somewhere north of 80 units in the same piece of land," Berman told the board.

The new complex would bring the rate of housing units that are considered affordable in New Canaan from about 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent, Town Planner Steve Kleppin said.

The Affordable Housing Appeals Acts states that municipalities where at least 10 percent of structures are deemed affordable are protected from developers seeking to override local zoning to build affordable housing. To Kleppin, 10 percent is not realistic.

"The total number is just not there," he said, adding that the town is seeking to get a four-year moratorium under the state statute.

Millport and Mill apartments, both of which are located on Millport Avenue and are managed by the authority, offer housing to low- and moderate-income families.

Mill Apartments underwent a similar expansion in 2011, when 12 units were turned into 40. That project cost nearly $8 million.

The Affordable Housing Trust Fund comes from a fee charged against all applications for a zoning permit for any new building construction or addition in town.

The inclusionary zoning fee is $10 per $1,000 of construction value, according to New Canaan's zoning regulation 7.6a. The money is then reserved for "constructing, rehabilitating or repairing housing affordable to persons and families of low and moderate income," the regulation states.

The trust currently has about $550,000, according to Finance Director Dawn Norton. The funds continue to grow as building permits are issued.

At their May meeting, Board of Finance members pressed the housing authority for more details on the project as some members were concerned with the amount of money the authority sought.

This time, Berman presented to the board a draft layout of what the new complex might look like.

The layout was put together by the Stamford-based architect firm DO H Chung & Partners.

Berman said the commission would come back to the Board of Finance with specific invoices and expenses.

Board of Finance Chairman and First Selectman Robert Mallozzi noted that the money would allow the commission "to get the ball rolling."

The project is subject to approval by the Town Council.

The plan is in line with the housing authority's master plan and the apartments still would be only two stories high, Berman has said.

The families living in the complex would be relocated for about a year while construction takes place, according to Berman.

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noliveira@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6582; @olivnelson

Nelson Oliveira|Education/general assignment reporter