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No Hearing For Norwalk Affordable Housing Plan

NORWALK, Conn. – A Norwalk committee decided Thursday night that a controversial change sought by a developer was minor, which means there will be no public hearing on the matter.

At issue is a request by Spinnaker Real Estate Partners LLC to move most of the affordable housing units expected to be built in its development at 20 N. Water St. to another site. The zoning commission's Plan Review Committee made the decision, although the Zoning Committee had discussed the matter last month.

Spinnaker's plan has been amended, in paperwork delivered to the commission Thursday. It would now like to keep three affordable housing units in the new building, up from two. The company dropped its plan to transfer workforce housing units to 143.5 S. Main St. and is asking instead to move all of the remaining units – now eight – to 50 Connecticut Ave., one of the options mentioned earlier.

The onsite units will be two-bedroom apartments, Fowler said.

The company had been expecting to move the affordable housing units offsite all along, Clayton Fowler said. It wasn't mentioned in detail during the February commission meeting – where the commission approved the development – because the company had not found a site. But it made clear it reserved the right to revisit the issue.

"It is not a bait and switch," Fowler said.

Commissioner Nathan Sumpter disputed that. "I didn't vote for anything being offsite," he said.

Fowler said his company plans to own the building a long time and is heavily invested in South Norwalk, both emotionally and because of the investment in time and energy the company has had there. "Our office is next door, you could literally throw a baseball to it," he said of the development site across from the Maritime Aquarium.

Developers roll the dice, he said, adding he would trade places with the zoning commission members if he could.

The decision was made by three commissioners on the plan review committee in front of about 30 people. Emily Wilson and Jill Jacobsen voted yes, to classify the change as minor. Former Norwalk Police Chief Harry Rilling, in his first appearance as a zoning commissioner, voted against the classification.

Bobby Burgess, chair of the Ward B Democrats, was not mollified by Spinnaker's new plan to leave the South Main Street site out of the equation. "We want all the units onsite," he said.

He vowed to go to court. "The court ruling supersedes any local regulations and the court already ruled in our favor," he said.

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