Vessel files suit over denied apartment building in Simsbury
By Paul Palmer
Vessel RE Holding LLC, which is affiliated with Vessel Technologies. Inc, has filed a lawsuit against the Simsbury Zoning Commission following the rejection of Vessel’s site plan application to build an apartment unit along Hopmeadow Street. In the suit, which was filed in Hartford Superior Court, Vessel said the Commission “..violates the 8-30g (statue) because it’s not supported by sufficient evidence in the record.” 8-30g refers to the state statue for affordable housing projects in Connecticut towns and cities that do not have 10% of what meets affordable housing criteria. The statue severely restricts what municipalities can do to reject the applications, in particular a Zoning Commission must find that the project presents a substantial health and safety risk to people and that the problem cannot be easily corrected. In Simsbury the affordable housing count is just under 6 % according to Vessel’s paperwork.
The project had been met with stiff opposition, especially from residents who live near the 446 Hopmeadow St. plot that it would be built on. Vessel initially proposed an 80-unit building for the land in January with 24 deed restricted units priced at or below 80% of the median income in Simsbury. In March, the company reduced the proposed size to 64 units with 102 parking spaces and said the new version addressed concerns that had been raised by multiple commissions and residents of Simsbury.
Following several installments of public hearings, the Zoning Commission rejected the site plan application on May 15, citing what it saw as a health and safety risk concerning parking. The Commission said that it believed the 102 spots would not be enough for residents and guests and the spillover would see cars parked on Hopmeadow Street creating a dangerous situation for the car owners and other drivers. Engineers for Vessel presented findings they say showed that they had more than enough parking spaces when using the commonly accepted rates used in planning.
In its suit, Vessel said that in addition to not being supported by evidence in the denial, “the decision was not based on a substantial public health or safety interest; does not clearly outweigh Simsbury’s need for affordable housing; could have been addressed by reasonable changes to the plan.” The suit has a return date of July 11th for the town in Superior Court. This is just the latest suit related to the proposed Vessel application. A neighbor of 446 Hopmeadow had already filed suit seeking an injunction against the approval of the plan by Simsbury’s Conservation and Inland/Wetlands Commission based on how the approval process played out.
Please note we have covered this issue extensively over the past few months. Additionally, this article will be expanded for the June 16 edition of The Valley Press.