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Outlook Bleak on Saddle Ridge Plan in Easton

Easton's Planning and Zoning Commission at still debating Saddle Ridge's application to build affordable housing in a public watershed.

Five public hearing sessions have taken place, in which dozens of residents spoke in opposition to the plan, which would have required changes to the town's zoning regulations, housing density and conservation and development plans.

On Monday, the commission met to discuss the risk of developing within a public watershed and the need for affordable housing. Saddle Ridge is using Connecticut statute 8-30g , which allows developers to get around zoning laws if less than 10 percent of a town's houses are classified as affordable. In Easton, less than 1 percent of houses have that classification, according to commission Chairman Robert Maquat.

Therefore, the town must prove the negative environmental impact to legally defeat Saddle Ridge's application. Easton has until February to makes its decision. If the town rejects the plan, it would need to compile an argument outlining the dangers the development would pose to public safety.

Saddle Ridge contends that its plan considers all environmental factors, and that the need for affordable housing is the core issue. Out of the 105 planned units, 32 were designated for affordable housing. According the statute, a minimum of 30 percent of a development must be considered affordable. Saddle Ridge's application barely meets that requirement.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health, Aquarion Water Co. and the Greater Bridgeport Regional Planning Agency have also written letters opposing Saddle Ridge's plan, which would more than double the housing density recommended for a watershed.

The mire kindled by statute 8-30g has led three Connecticut towns to issue moratoriums on such developments this year. The state Department of Economic & Community Development recently upheld Darien's moratorium , which cited concerns that its regulations needed revision. Darien's moratorium will last three years.

Developers contend that the moratoriums hinder economic growth and prevent residents from having access to more affordable housing.

What do you think? Does the need for affordable housing outweigh the potential hazard of building a high-density development in a public watershed?

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