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Darien Affordable Housing Developers Win Appeal

DARIEN, Conn. – A state judge has ruled in favor of Darien affordable housing developers Christopher and Margaret Stefanoni , who appealed the town’s rejection of their proposed development at Leroy Avenue and West Avenue.

In 2008, the couple proposed a 16-unit condominium complex for seniors, with five units designated as affordable. The Darien Planning and Zoning Commission rejected the proposal, saying the site would be too dense. The commission said that would lead to traffic issues and an increase in emergency calls because of the concentration of elderly residents. The commission also said inadequate sight lines at the intersection created a safety concern.

Christopher Stefanoni called the decision a win-win for himself and the town.

“The location is truly perfect for senior affordable housing,” he said in an email. “The only shame is the cover-up of how much money the town has really spent since 2008 in wasteful legal fees trying to prevent 16 senior households from living there. All that money would be better spent on valid town needs such as safe sidewalks for commuters and a foreign language program for elementary school kids.”

After the initial rejection, the Stefanonis rejected a compromise offered by the town and instead appealed the decision under Connecticut General Statute 8-30g. That law allows developers to overstep local zoning regulations to build affordable housing. Under 8-30g, the burden of proof is on the town to show that the development should not be built.

The commission was unable to prove that the safety concerns outweighed the need for affordable housing at the site, Judge Henry Cohn of New Britain wrote in his ruling.

“There is too much speculation by the commission’s witnesses on what effect the building would have on the intersection, and no analysis beyond the rationale of the commission’s regulations,” Cohn wrote.

“Other than tables in the commission’s briefs showing that the plaintiffs’ project is more dense than other commission-approved structures in Darien, there is no evidence of the harm that will occur or why this harm outweighs the need for affordable housing.”

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