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Easton Denies Watershed Housing Project

The prolonged battle between Easton officials and Saddle Ridge Developers has ended. At least for now. On Monday, the Planning & Zoning Commission submitted its 29-page resolution that denied Saddle Ridge's application to build 105 homes near the Easton and Aspetuck reservoirs – a location that annually distributes 12 billion gallons of water to Easton, Fairfield, Weston, Redding and Trumbull, according Aquarion Water Co.

Saddle Ridge, however, is likely to appeal to the state citing the 8-30(g) statute that allows developers to sidestep zoning laws if only a small number of a town's homes are classified as affordable. Saddle Ridge's plan includes 32 affordable houses and also proposes an increase in housing density.

The state recommends no more than one unit per 2 acres in a watershed, and the Saddle Ridge project would more than double that. The increased density did not sit well with the P&Z. "The commission would consider a plan with lower density," said P&Z Chairman Robert Maquat, quoting from the resolution Feb. 7. "The application presents a clear and obvious danger to the drinking water supply."

The state Department of Public Health, Aquarion Water Co. and the Greater Bridgeport Regional Planning Agency have also written letters opposing the housing development.

Chris Miles of the Coalition to Save Easton said that this decision is only the beginning. "Affordable housing is obviously a good thing," Miles said in a phone interview. "This property on the watershed was just an inappropriate place to put it."

Miles added that he would consider pursuing legislative options should Saddle Ridge win the appeal. "8-30(g) shouldn't trump the state's ability to ensure people have safe drinking water," he said.

Saddle Ridge attorney Mattew Ranelli said, "We're reviewing the commission's decision and evaluating our options." Those options include an appeal to the state or a revision of its current plan. During the public hearing process, Saddle Ridge continuously molded its application to meet the needs of health concerns. The company until March 4 to choose its path of action.

Tell us your thoughts on affordable housing in Easton. Is there a need? Does that need outweigh the safety issues regarding construction of a high-density development near a public water supply?

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