Farmington to pause subdivision growth to deal with affordable housing
By Paul Palmer
FARMINGTON – In an effort to meet the Town’s goal of 10% affordable housing, the Town Plan and Zoning Commission has approved an amendment to the zoning regulations for moratorium on new multi-family residential developments in all zones and on new single-family residential developments with three or more dwelling units or lots in all zones except the Affordable Housing, Housing Opportunity Zone or South Road Opportunity Zone. The moratorium goes into effect immediately for 6-months, will a possible extension to a total of 12 months.
The change does not impact any plans that have already been approved, or partially approved, by the Town - and that includes the Morea Road Project, which has wetlands approval but is the subject of a court appeal. However, any exempted development that has not gotten a full Planning and Zoning approval (but only the Inland Watercourse and Wetlands approval) will still have to have a hearing and review by the TPZ. The change also does not impact approvals for accessory apartments in single- family homes. The goal is to allow time for the Planning and Zoning Commission to research and implement changes to Farmington’s Affordable Housing Plan.
Right now, the town has no way of mandating that any new developments include affordable housing options.
Currently there are 1,088 multi family units and 72 single-family lots currently approved for subdivisions in Farmington. None of those units are required to have affordable housing, but one project that has been okayed wants to build 62 affordable units. According to a presentation by Assistant Planner Shannon Rutherford, in 2021 the affordable housing rate in Farmington was 7.93% but has now dropped to 7.73% That figure is still higher than many communities that surround Farmington but is not at the desired level of 10%.
Opposition to the plan has already been received according to Rutherford. At the Public Hearing on Jan. 9 concerning the proposal, she read two of the letters the town have received. Attorney Tim Hollister wrote on behalf of the Connecticut Home Builders and Remodelers Association that “In summary, it is not necessary and in the alternative likely overbroad and for an unreasonable duration.” He went on to say, “The Commission should first recognize what a broad, drastic step it is proposing.”
A letter from Desegregate Connecticut read in part; “The pending proposal is misguided and we strongly recommend you do not pursue it further.” The letter went on to say. “If the Town wants to meet its affordable housing goals, it can do so by meeting with applicants and could make those goals part of the conditions of approval.”
Opponents also argued that Farmington should come up with a list of specific actions or options before imposing the moratorium which it says could keep businesses from locating to the Town because there will be less housing being built.
Rutherford told the Commission members that regulations prohibit the town from requiring affordability from an applicant, so it could not make it a discussion point with any planners. Commission member Scott Halstead asked if there was any flexibility in the original 12-month proposal, leading to discussion of making it 6-months with the possibility of extending for a maximum of 6 more if work was not completed. Rutherford said that was an acceptable change and if it was decided that it needed to be extend to the 12 months, all it would require from a vote by the Planning and Zoning Commission. “The purpose is to get us closer to the objectives of the Affordable Housing Plan,” Rutherford said.
“We need a thoughtful process here and this pause allows us to do that,” said Commission member Matt Hutvagner.