With Majority 'Under Protest,' Branford PZC Unanimously Approves Parkside Court-Ordered Modifications
With four of five members voting in the affirmative but "under protest," Branford's Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC) has unanimously approved a resolution containing court-ordered modifications to the Town's approved Parkside Village 1 redevelopment site plan and coastal site plan. The redevelopment is governed by the state's affordable housing statute (§ 8-30g).
The PZC voted 5-0 on April 1 to approve a resolution containing the modified conditions. Action to adopt the modification, ordered by a Superior Court judge's decision in October, 2020, had been held aside until January, 2021, when the Town's petition for an appeal of the court decision was denied. Attorneys for the Town and developer/applicant Beacon Communities (MA) and Parkside owner Branford Housing Authority (BHA) worked together to develop the language brought to the PZC for approval on April 1.
The October 2020 Superior Court land use decision which came down in favor of Parkside Village 1 modified a PZC condition of approval requiring an agreement to use Town property for secondary fire and emergency vehicle access. Specifically, the newly modified condition states, "The applicants are prohibited from making any physical modifications or alterations to the Phase 1 improvements including the Sliney Field Access Road that would in any way impede access by emergency service personnel and vehicles without written approval of the Commission, after consultation with the Fire Marshal and Town Police Chief."
The condition is one of many stipulated by the PZC within the 17-page resolution of approval for the development of Parkside Village 1 most recently reviewed and approved by the PZC in November, 2019, by a vote of 3-2. During the November 2019 vote, PZC chairman Charles Andres and commissioners John Lust and Joe Vaiuso voted in favor; while voting against were commissioner Marci Palluzzi and alternate Fred Russo, seated for commissioner Joe Chadwick, who recused himself. Chadwick had previously served as a BHA board member.
Chadwick also recused himself from the vote on April 1. A first motion to adopt the modified resolution, made by Vaiuso and seconded by Andres, failed by a vote of 3-2; with Palluzzi, Russo and alternate Massimo Liguori voting against; and Vaiuso and Andres in favor. Andres followed up with a discussion to determine if the group could resolve any issues to allow the PZC to cooperate with the court order.
Palluzzi asked Andres to clarify if, legally, the PZC had to vote on the matter, as the court decision had already been made. Andres noted that, specifically, the commission was ordered by the judge to approve the applicant's site plan with modified condition imposed.
"You're on record disagreeing with it, both you and Fred are on record," Andres said to Palluzzi, with regard their 2019 votes against approving the Parkside Village 1 project. "That said, we've spent a lot of money on this, and I don't want to have to spend more money facing a contempt of court action... so let's find a way to get this resolution adopted, because I think it does everything it said; and have it on record you opposed it. Let's not spend more money on this. Let's get it done."
Andres also noted that the applicant is being held to numerous other conditions which much be adhered to in order to undertake the project, such as rehoming all current residents of Parkside Village 1 in the new development.
Russo asked if it could the April 1 PZC action to vote on the court-ordered modified condition could be voted for in favor, but under protest.
"Absolutely," answered Andres.
Noting he was making it under protest, Russo provided a motion to reconsider and approve the resolution. The motion was seconded by Andres.
"Now we're going to vote again, and if you vote 'Yes, I agree to the resolution, but I do it under protest,' you can say it on the record," said Andres.
During the vote that followed, Liguori, Palluzzi, Russo and Vaiuso registered they were voting to approve the motion under protest, and Andres voted to approve the motion, for a 5-0 vote to adopt the court-ordered modification.
As previously reported, on March 25, Beacon was awarded $1,800,000 in federal tax credits for the redevelopment, to be issued by the state through the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA). With approval of needed low-income housing tax credits , Beacon Developers said the process would be moving forward to redevelop Parkside Village I. The information was shared by Beacon in a March 25 press release, which also noted, in part, "...construction should start toward the end of 2021 and take 18 months to complete."
Located at 115 South Montowese St., Parkside Village 1 was built in 1974 with 40 one-bedroom and 10 studio units and currently provides affordable housing to Branford senior citizens and adults with disabilities. The latest available Parkside Village 1 management plan posted by BHA regarding current occupancy rates (as of March 31, 2021) shows 78 percent of all units occupied, with no monthly move-ins and 11 remaining vacancies. The report also notes the 11 vacant units will remain vacant as they are needed for the project's resident relocation plan when demolition begins.
Parkside Village 1's redevelopment plan will bring in a 67-unit, multi-family development in a three-story building, including 60 units under § 8-30g. The complex will have 15 units for households with incomes up to 25 percent of Area Median Income (AMI), 27 units for households up to 50 percent AMI, 18 units for households up to 60 percent AMI and 7 market rate units.